Resurgent stock market evokes memories of long-gone bubble on Tokyo’s ‘Wall Street’

Kimiko G. Judith

TOKYO (Reuters) – At the just about empty “Wall Street” bar and cafe in Tokyo’s Kayabacho economic district, three teams of patrons dine quietly at tables divided by partitions.

Kenichi Inoue, the operator of a cafe named “Wall Street” stands at the entrance of the diner at Kayabacho district in Tokyo, Japan, February 25, 2021. REUTERS/Junko Fujita

The sedate scene is a far cry from the area’s heyday 30 a long time ago when traders flush from massive wins on the close by Tokyo Stock Exchange routinely crowded the restaurant’s bar, downing glasses of premium whiskey.

Even nevertheless Japanese stocks are scaling giddy heights not observed considering the fact that the asset inflation bubble of the late 1980s and early 1990s, bars and dining places in the monetary district are not along for the journey.

Kayabacho’s streets are as an alternative eerily peaceful.

“During the bubble period, people today came in this article to consume a glass of Ballantine’s 30-year-old (whisky) for 5,500 yen ($52), even when there is no seats accessible, just standing by the dollars register,” “Wall Street” proprietor Kenichi Inoue, 62, instructed Reuters.

Inoue opened the European design and style bar and cafe in 1989, the yr the Nikkei index strike a document peak, aiming to serve drinks and foodstuff at the inexpensive selling price of around $30 for every person.

Brokers and traders packed into the bar just about each and every night, with tables at the back normally loaded by staff from Yamaichi Securities, then the country’s fourth largest brokerage.

“It was simple to guess the dimensions of the crowd for the night,” stated Inoue. “If the sector was up, I knew it would be fast paced.”

Inoue’s cafe was not the only institution to advantage throughout the boom. Coffee stores scattered throughout Kayabacho were crammed with brokers exchanging information on the sector.

The ‘Tatsumi’ restaurant was well-known with superstitious traders mainly because it served tempura, or deep fried veggies and fish. The Japanese phrase for “deep-fry”, ageru, has the same audio as the word “boost”.

“Back then brokers utilised to occur listed here in a team. They gave us 100,000 yen in dollars in an advance,” stated 62-yr-outdated operator, Masahiko Tsuda, citing a determine equivalent to close to $800 at the time. “If that was not enough, they paid the change at the close of the 7 days.”

The bash came to an close when the stocks bubble burst in the early 1990s. Yamaichi was a single of four significant financial institutions and brokerages that collapsed in 1997.

Compounding the current market slide, the Tokyo Inventory Exchange in 1999 accomplished a ten years-very long change to electronic trading, closing the formerly bustling trading flooring.

The quantity of brokerage employees almost halved from a peak of 170,000 nationwide in 1991 to 91,000 past 12 months, according to the Japan Securities Dealers Association.

With them went much of the vibrancy of Kayabacho, a downturn that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to trading limitations on bars and dining establishments throughout Tokyo.


Redevelopment programs for Kayabacho, which homes numerous smaller and old buildings, have been in practice for a number of decades, with tries to rebrand the area as a fintech hub. Heiwa Real Estate, the operator of the inventory trade making, strategies to open up a 15-storey office environment tower in the area later on this 12 months.

But the revamp lags the refurbishment of neighbouring districts like Marunouchi and Nihonbashi, where by important home builders Mitsubishi Estate and Mitsui Fudosan have created hubs for international companies.

Incorporating to Kayabacho’s woes, the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a blow to the serious estate industry across Tokyo, as more folks do the job from dwelling and domestic financial advancement slows.

“Kayabacho’s atmosphere is darkish and gloomy,” mentioned Yoko Hattori, 52, the operator of a standing bar, New Kayaba. “The economic system is terrible. Several buildings in this article are previous but renovation is not effortless due to the fact it prices income.”

Tsuda explained he no lengthier sees people today flashing lots of income at his cafe, although Inoue mentioned “Wall Street” was struggling with the most crucial time of its heritage.

Inoue has tried to diversify his menu from the pasta, pizza and grilled meats that catered to mostly male stockbrokers, adding organic and natural foodstuff and chilly press juice for additional well being-conscious shoppers.

He is grateful that his own business enterprise hardly ever relied far too seriously on the excesses of the bubble period: “If this experienced been an significant-conclude cafe, it would have been closed a prolonged time in the past.”

More reporting by Mayu Sakoda and Hiroko Hamada enhancing by Jane Wardell

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