Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Orix takes aquarium plunge

March 8, 2010

What do blubbery elephant seals, frail old folk and tranquil Japanese inns have in common?

They’re all things that one Japanese real estate developer has become familiar with as it tries to expand its business from more traditional areas.

ARGENTINA ENVIRONMENTIn a bid to shake off the economic downtrun, Orix Real Estate is looking beyond sleek office buildings and swanky apartments, diversifying into properties such as aquariums, old people’s homes and “ryokan“.

“Don’t ask me about cap rates or development sites because I’m clueless,” Etsuaki Morikawa, who oversees the company’s business in these new sectors. “But you can ask me how to make fish tanks look more natural or attractive.”

The firm is preparing to open its second aquarium inside the New Tokyo Tower, hoping to repeat the success  of its New Enoshima Aquarium in the south of the Japanese capital.

 ”We’ve had unexpectedly big sales from the (first) aquarium’s souvenir shop … small plastic figurines of creatures such as the southern elephant seal and lionfish have been a big hit,” Morikawa said. 

Morikawa has also led the turnaround of an old ryokan in the famous hot spring area of Beppu, while the company has been busy building a raft of homes for the aged as well.

Japan’s property market has been hit hard as the country’s economic downturn saps demand for houses and office space and as banks rein in lending to the highly indebted sector.

And if the market remains listless, maybe more property firms will take the plunge into aquariums?

 Photo credit: Rickey Rogers/REUTERS


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