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Seeking New Kinds of Customers

Giang Nguyen

Tokyo has no shortage of entertainment venues, so competition for customers is fierce. Now, it may become even more so as some places rethink their business model in an effort to lure new visitors.

The horses at a Tokyo track run until nearly 9 PM. Spectators can follow the action in the cool evening breeze. For people who are more interested in eating than racing, the complex offers about 50 restaurants where they can spend their time and money. There's even a family barbecue area.

But the number of visitors has decreased in recent years. About 10 years ago, more than 10,000 people a day came to this track. That number has dwindled to fewer than 6,000. So the track's operator is moving beyond its normal customer base, and trying to attract the increasing number of foreign tourists.

Since April, promotional brochures have been published in Korean, Chinese and English. The company has even begun offering Korean and English language classes for security guards.

It's teamed up with a bus company to arrange tours for Chinese people, who make up the largest share of foreign visitors. The tourists say places like this don't exist in China, so it's a real treat.

Takafumi Ootsuka of Tokyo City Keiba, the operator of the racetrack, says Tokyo's international airport is only 20 minutes away. His company's strategy is to combine the excitement of horse racing with Japanese dining and colorful lighting displays. He says they want to make the place more enjoyable for foreign visitors.

In Shinagawa in central Tokyo, more office buildings have recently been erected. So the number of corporate workers in the area is on the rise. That's presented new business opportunity for one local entertainment venue.

An aquarium reopened in July with a revamped business strategy. The managers are hoping people on their way home from work will stop by for some after-hours socializing.

At 5 PM, the colorful indoor lighting scheme takes on a more relaxed tone to create a suitable adult atmosphere. The dolphin show changes too. The cheerful, child-focused commentary is gone. There's even a bar for thirsty patrons. One of the visitors says it's great to be able to have a drink while looking at the fish.

Akiko Yamada of Epson Aqua Park Shinagawa, the operator of the aquarium, says they're open until 10 PM. She says the age group changes from day to night, and they're trying different approaches at different times to attract more people.

The operators of these venues believe the key to success is attracting new kinds of customers, day or night. They're hoping to give more typical destinations a run for their money.

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