Food & Drink

Rich pickings— Japan


As the Shinkansen continues to speed north in Japan, operator JR East is also diversifying its retail – with apples.

Apples, Shinkasen

Putting a building on the former site of a park at the northern tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu hardly seems the best way for a railroad company to boost business. But a year ago executives at East Japan Railway (JR East) decided to take a chance on the idea.

Since the A-Factory building opened for business in Aomori city last December, it has attracted a stream of visitors and generated the kind of buzz that land developers can only dream of.

Early on, JR East decided the building would showcase products from the Aomori prefecture. Once that…

  1. A-Factory’s Aomori Cidre “Standard” (5 per cent alcohol)
  2. Skip Egg patisserie’s pies
  3. Hatorazu Fuji Apples
  4. Aomori Royal Hotel Curry
  5. Tsugaru Hyakka’s vinegar drink

Shoppers' report

Sachiho Ebina, model

“Coming here is like rediscovering Aomori.”

Kazuyuki Itabashi

“I live nearby and came to visit my friend who is a vegetable sommelier at the market.”

Fast forward

Inaugurated last December, the Tohoku Shinkansen train line provides the first direct route from Tokyo to Aomori and its new Shin-Aomori station. The efficient service makes 15 round trips a day and shaves 39 minutes off the previous four-hour journey time.

Q&A - Masamichi Katayama, Wonderwall

What did JR East ask you to do?
It wanted a fantasy-like factory in Aomori.

What were the challenges of designing a cider-making factory?
I ran through many different simulations to figure out where to place it inside the building. I chose to put it where it is so anyone who is shopping or dining would easily get a glimpse of the cider-making area.

What makes this building different from other commercial spaces in Japan?
It’s rare to build on the waterfront in Japan and A-Factory also has an outside deck where you can put tables and chairs. Although the building has a roof, I wanted to create the feeling of a lively, open-air market. It’s also a factory. So its design is rough and primitive. It’s unusual to find such a spacious building with high ceilings that isn’t divided into two stories.


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