Koseinenkin Hall Closes

Tokyo’s Koseinenkin Hall closed its doors two weeks ago with a final concert by veteran singer Chiharu Matsuyama.

The auditorium opened in 1961 and quickly became one of Japan’s most iconic venues for popular music and musical theater, both foreign and domestic, renowned for its state-of-the-art acoustics. Miles Davis’ Live in Tokyo was recorded there in 1964.

The hall was one of seven Koseinenkin Kaikan built throughout Japan in major cities in the 1960s.

Koseinenkin is the national pension system and, as with many public investment schemes, money from payments into the system were spent on public works projects that were also supposed to “publicize” the systems themselves.

Cultural halls were a particularly popular outlet for such projects because, in the ’60s at least, cultural venues were in great demand.
The practice became something of a nuisance in the ’80s and ’90s when too many halls were built. Many are now considered white elephants and remain underused.

But Tokyo’s Koseinenkin Hall, located in the Shinjuku district, was an exception and was booked right up until it closed.

Five years ago the government, eager to privatize as many public functions as possible, sold the seven halls (Tokyo, Hiroshima, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Ishikawa, Kita Kyushu) for what amounted to a song.

In four cases, they were bought by the cities where they are located and will continue in their present capacity.

However, Tokyo’s was bought by the electronics retailer Yodobashi Camera, which plans to convert part of the building into a camera museum.

The company has not decided whether it will retain the auditorium.