Tokyo’s two major headphone shows aren’t organised by a private company like The Chester Group or a discussion forum founder like Jude Mansilla of Head-Fi. Neither are they run in conjunction with an audiophile society or local publication. They’re put on by the city’s two largest headphone outlets, one of which is Fujiya Avic whose (now bi-annual) event takes place at the Nakano Sun Plaza Hotel every May and October.
Coverage of this year’s Autumn event can be found here
It wasn’t always this way. Fujiva Avic have been running headphone events for almost ten years but the store’s first, like all beginnings, was a far more humble affair. Held in 2006 and dedicated to high end headphones only, the store’s first ‘show’ was held in an office and played host to a mere five exhibitors and thirty attendees!
That’s a long way from the 9000 ear-freaks that showed up to the most recent Fujiya Avic headphone festival in October 2015.
Not until 2008 did the (then annual) headphone festival proper begin to take shape, first at Nakano Sun Plaza then Stadium Place, Aoyama and then back to the Sun Plaza Hotel.
Nakano is one stop north of busy Shinjuku on the Chuo Rapid Line – a cinch to get to – and the train station’s north exit leads directly into the Nakano Broadway shopping mall. Take the arched glass ceiling-d section to the end before hopping to the right to ride the escalator up to the third floor where you’ll run directly into Fujiya Avic’s headphone store. The blue and white Sennheiser co-branding is unmissable both inside and out.
Fujiya Avic (the store) isn’t big or showy. It’s considerably more condensed than Fujiya Avic (the show) but remains comprehensively stocked with many of the world’s best DACs, headphone amplifiers and, of course, headphones. On offer also, a smattering of standmount loudspeakers are lined up high along the back wall, behind the Stax listening station.
Like many specialist stores, Fujiya Avic separates itself from the bigger players (like Yodobashi Camera) on service and by only stocking premium quality offerings. You won’t too many fashion headphones here.
Check out the store from the inside and out in this video:
In charge of the store’s operation (and show organisation) is one Taniguchi-San. With the 2015 Spring headphone event having clashed directly with the Munich High-End show I ask about dates for next year. Our host points to the last weekend in April on a calendar. Phew.
Three things to note:
Firstly, Tokyo plays home to some 14 million people. Commute times are long and space is tight here. Often too tight to accommodate loudspeakers and amplifiers. No wonder headphone listening is booming in Tokyo. The upshot? Attendees run on tap so no need to advertise your headphone event outside of Japan. Therefore…
Secondly, you needn’t be the biggest hitter in town in order to put on a well attended headphone show, let alone run one twice a year. The magic is in your store’s existing supply chain. Simply invite distributors and manufacturers to exhibit their wares and you have an event that outsizes your day-to-day operation a hundred to one. Which means…
Thirdly, naming aside, Fujiya Avic’s presence can be confined to a single room selling a limited number of show specials. No need for a hard sell either when sharper pricing brings in the punters (in greater numbers on day one than day two). And if people have turned up to grab a bargain, clearly they’re already tuned to your wavelength. Why wouldn’t they check out the exhibitors occupying the remaining six (!) hotel floors? Especially when entry is free.
Until the next Fujiva Avic headphone festival rolls around in Spring 2016, visitors to Tokyo can find Fujiya Avic’s headphone store at Nakano Broadway 3F, Nakano 5-52-15, Nakano-ku, Tokyo. They’re open between 10.30am and 8pm every day (except New Year’s Day).