Japan Food Town shuttered, lease terminated by landlord Isetan

In a filing to the Singapore Exchange dated Jan 31, Isetan had issued a notice to quit to Japan Food Town Development for "non-payment of certain sums". ST PHOTO: EUNICE QUEK

SINGAPORE - Japan Food Town, the cluster of Japanese restaurants on the fourth floor of the Isetan department store at Wisma Atria, shuttered on Feb 29 as it was "unable to meet its further obligations in the lease agreement".

In an e-mail response to The Straits Times, an Isetan spokesman said there is a "definite deadline" for the tenants to move out, but it is unable to elaborate further as it is currently in litigation.

When ST visited the area on Thursday (March 5), the shutters were down, though some staff could be seen on the premises. The escalators leading directly to Japan Food Town's premises were also blocked off.

In a filing to the Singapore Exchange dated Jan 31, Isetan had issued a notice to quit to Japan Food Town Development for "non-payment of certain sums". The termination of tenancy took place with immediate effect and Isetan said it would exercise its right of re-entry to the premises on Feb 29.

Japan Food Town's website has posted a notice to say that it is closed, while its Facebook page lists promotions only till Feb 25.

The Isetan spokesman explained that it had offered promotions to attract more traffic to not only Japan Food Town, but also its other tenants.

"This period of the Covid-19 outbreak gave us an opportunity to review and reconfigure our proposition on the space occupied by Japan Food Town," said the spokesman, adding that Isetan has already received offers from external parties interested in the space.

The $8.5 million Japan Food Town - which opened in 2016 and housed 16 restaurants - is a collaboration between the Japan Association of Overseas Promotion for Food & Restaurants and the Cool Japan Fund.

The fund, which is backed by the Japanese government, supports projects that promote Japanese goods and culture overseas.

In an interview with The Straits Times in 2016, Japan Food Town's managing director, Mr Makoto Yoshikawa, said that despite the competitive Japanese food scene in Singapore, it was in it "for the long haul" and committed to making it a success.

Prior to the closure, some tenants were already on the move.

In February, Kumo Keiki - which was previously known as Riz Labo Kitchen and specialises in Japanese souffle pancakes - moved to Picnic Food Park, a multi-stall themed restaurant one level down in Wisma Atria.

Formerly at Japan Food Town, hotpot specialist Nabe Seizan - an offshoot of two-Michelin-starred kaiseki restaurant Seizan in Tokyo - now runs two sister concepts at Picnic as well. One sells uni ramen and the other specialises in daifuku.

Mr Cheng Hsin Yao, Picnic Food Park's owner, said: "We will be reaching out to some of the affected Japan Food Town tenants whom we are familiar with to offer assistance, including the possibility of having a temporary pop-up in Picnic."

Other former tenants of Japan Food Town that have other locations include saba specialist Sabar at Don Don Donki's food court in JCube, tonkatsu restaurant Ginza Anzu at Great World City, and yakiniku restaurant Yakiniku Heijoen at 100AM mall's Japanese dining cluster, Itadakimasu by Parco.

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