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They're back: Japanese return after decade of absence.

Japanese businesses are returning to New York City more than 10 years after the Land of the Rising Sun's well publicized humiliation at the hands of fickle local real estate markets.

In the latest such transaction, the U.S. subsidiary of Ajinomoto, a $9.8-billion food products company, has leased the entire 5,000 square-foot 10th floor penthouse at 532 Broadway in Soho. Michelle Stone, managing director of Sinvin Realty Corp., represented the tenant in the deal.

"Ajinomoto will retain its headquarters in New Jersey," said Stone. "But now, the company feels the market conditions are right to come to New York City." Some Japanese companies, it is true, never left New York City after a prior wave of investment in properties such as Rockefeller Center in the 1980s turned sour.

But, the Ajinomoto lease is one of many recent deals that suggest a new desire among Japanese businesses to be here.

Some Japanese tenants choose New York for access to skilled employees, media and finance. Others, such as restaurants, choose the city for its large base of consumers. The decision is favored by a strong Yen that makes New York leases relatively less expensive, and by the belief that the New York real estate market will improve in the coming months and years. Other recent Japanese leases in NYC include Wacoal, one of the world's largest lingerie companies.

The company recently ramped up its New York operations to launch in the U.S. a brand called CW-X that has been successful for 10 years in Japan. As a result, the company has just renewed and expanded its lease to take an additional 60,000 square feet at its Park Avenue South location.

CW-X creates exercise clothing that is marketed as conditioning the body and supporting the knees to improve performance and prevent injury. The company is currently sharing space with Donna Karen on Park Avenue South. "We've increased our activity here," said John Wilson, a company representative. "New York is our base of operations for a focus on the U.S. market."

Underground fashion company A Bathing Ape was represented by Sinvin Realty's Chris Owles in its recent lease for 3,136 square feet at 91 Greene Street. The company already has a hold on American pop culture. Beastie Boys' Adam Horovitz (better known as Adrock) has been photographed wearing A Bathing Ape t-shirts. Other fans are rap and hip-hop artists Jay-Z and Pharrell Williams. The store opened the week of November 22.

EN is a privately held business with 25 restaurants in Japan, mostly in the capital city of Tokyo.

The company believes the New York market is finally ripe for it to roll out its first operation in a foreign country, and signed a lease for 5,600 square feet at 435 Hudson Street, at Leroy Street, with Michelle Stone representing them.

The high-end new eatery opened recently.

When Megu restaurant opened its doors on March II, parent company Foodscope Inc., which has more than 30 locales in Japan, began serving customers outside of that country for the first time.

The company sees its Big Apple location as the first of five in the city, and as the key to international growth that may eventually take it to every continent on the globe.

In fact, Megu just recently signed a lease for its second New York City location at the Trump World Tower at United Nations Plaza.

"In the west coast if you are successful you can only expand a little. If you are successful in New York City, you can expand in 10 directions at once," said Hiro Nishida, COO for Foodscope Inc.'s U.S. operation.

Nishida said that in the month or more since his New York location opened, he has received seven offers from investors who want to help him expand the chain."

That's why we opened a restaurant in New York," he said.
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Jan 5, 2005
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