It’d be an understatement to say the last year and a half has been difficult for Akihabara. Over the past decade, the neighborhood has become one of Tokyo’s prime tourism destinations, not only for hardcore fans of anime and video games coming to fill their suitcases with treasures from its specialty stores but also non-otaku travelers wanting to take a peek at the vibrant subculture on display. But with Japan closed to international travel during the pandemic, and many residents avoiding domestic trips as well, it seems like almost every month brings news that another Akihabara landmark is closing down due to a lack of customers.
It’s not just Akihbara’s otaku-oriented businesses that are feeling the pinch, either. Mansei, a meat and restaurant company, was founded in Akihabara in 1949, long before there were any anime on TV or video games of any kind. The company’s 10-story Akihabara Main Building, built in 1991, stands just three blocks away from Akihabara Station and is packed with restaurants offering meaty fare such as hamburger steak, pork cutlet, and yakiniku, ready to serve hungry travelers of a variety of budgets. Sadly, though, Mansei is being forced to put the building up for sale.
There have been signs for some time that things haven’t been going well for the Mansei Akihabara building. Including the basement, there are 11 floors worth of eateries inside the building, but in 2020 operations were scaled back as the pandemic worsened, and only those on floors one through five are currently operating. Still, the announcement that the building is up for sale was a shock to many, with online reactions including:
“No way…it’s been a dream of mine to one day splurge for a fancy steak dinner at their top-floor restaurant on my way home from Comiket.”
“Another pandemic-created tragedy.”
“I can’t take it anymore…”
However, not all hope/meals are lost! Mansei has clarified that while it is selling the building, it isn’t planning on closing all of its restaurants. After a buyer is found, the company wants to continue running its restaurants on a lease-back basis for their building space. They’ve also sent out a tweet from their official account assuring everyone that the announcement that the building is up for sale has no bearing on which restaurants are currently open, and the ones on floors one to five are cooking as usual.
That assurance put the minds of fans at ease, who left comments such as:
“So relieved. I have so many good memories of eating at Mansei.”
“Glad to hear it! I still remember going there for the first time as a kid with my family 30 years ago.”
“The first time I went to Akihabara as a child, my father took me to eat steak at Mansei. Then when I had a son, I took him to eat there, so I hope you’ll still be around when he becomes a dad so he can take his kids there too.”
However, there’s a possible dark tinge to the silver lining, since if Mansei can’t find a financial benefit to owning the building, it could very well be because they don’t think there’s a financial benefit to running all 11 floors’ restaurants, in which case there’s a chance that certain eateries might be closing down and having their section of the building rented out to other tenants. Still, it’s good to know the Mansei people have known and loved for decades isn’t going away entirely, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the semi-secret Mansei meat sandwich vending machine is part of what sticks around.
Related: Mansei official website
Sources: Nikkei Real Estate Market Information via Hachima Kiko, J Cast, Twitter/@manseimark, Twitter
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