Providing intimate shopping experiences in a nature-rich environment in a Tokyo neighborhood that is unique even by the city’s standards

Both traditional and innovative, Cartier has long been one of the world’s most beloved luxury brands. The brand is now preparing to open its only Japanese boutique with a terrace in Azabudai Hills. We talk to Cartier President and CEO Cyrille Vigneron about why one of the world’s top luxury brands would choose a location in Azabudai Hills and what shopping experiences customers can expect at the boutique.

Portrait © Jean-François ROBERT
illustration by Geoff McFetridge

The Japanmarket is very close to me . I was president for Cartier Japan from 1997 to 2002 , and then from 2002 to 2005 , I served as president of Richemont Japan. From 2013 to 2015 , I was president of LVMH Japan, and then in 2016 I became CEO of Cartier.

Tokyo: A destination for tourists who want to know what’s new

Cartier Shinsaibashi Boutique

In the 1990 s and 2000 s, Japan was the top market in the world for Cartier. Since then, the country has lost its lead to China and the United States, but in the past two or three years, we have seen an impressive revival of Japan as a consumer market for luxury. It’s another Golden Age for Japan, not only for Japanese consumers, but also for foreign tourists visiting the country to purchase luxury goods. Almost half of them are Chinese tourists coming individually or in a group, but there are also tourists from Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Australia—many of whom visit four times a year.

Tokyo in particular is a magnet for Asian tourists who want to know what’s going on and what’s new in terms of hospitality, restaurants, ideas, and new stores—and I think this will continue for many years to come. That makes it important for Cartier to reinforce our presence in Tokyo. We need to offer something new to the customers coming into the city from Asia and the rest of the world—something they will only find in Tokyo.

Understanding a diverse clientele

Cartier Boutique GINZA SIX © Cartier

The Japanese market is evolving very rapidly and so is Tokyo’s place in Asia as a whole. There was a time from around 1995 to 2005 when young Japanese consumers were very prosperous. They were very different from their parents and wanted to enjoy life, so they bought a lot of luxury goods, whether they were traveling abroad or in Japan. Young, single women who were still living with their parents especially had a lot of money to spend on luxury. But times have changed, and so has the world. On the one hand, today’s youth have completely different values, but on the other hand, their parents are in their midlives and continue to enjoy luxury. Something you will find in Tokyo and some parts of Osaka—particularly the area between Umeda and Kobe—is that today’s youth have different kinds of attitudes towards luxury and relationships with luxury.

In other words, the customer base has become more diverse. We have to be much more precise and specific in how to address the different clientele and understand who they are, how they shop, how they behave, and how they interact with each other, especially through social media.

We also have to consider the huge increase in tourism to Japan. The Japanese government’s Visit Japan campaign, which started in 2003 , and the establishment of a comprehensive inbound tourism policy in 2013 have boosted visitor figures since 2000 to over 30 million in 2019 —and this number is expected to greatly increase this year. These visitors who come for short periods of time—perhaps once in a while, perhaps several times a year—will have different expectations than local customers about products and services. So we will need to adapt ourselves to satisfy those expectations.

Azabudai Hills: A place of convenience that offers everything one needs

© DBOX for MORI Building Company

The key hubs for shopping in Tokyo have not changed in 25 years. For example, Ginza still has many standalone boutiques, as well as department stores such as Matsuya Ginza, Mitsukoshi, and Matsuzakaya— the latter of which was redeveloped as Ginza Six. There are also shopping streets near train station hubs like Shinjuku and Shibuya. But there are not many shopping areas that are walkable.

Azabudai Hills, on the other hand, is full of lush nature and very walkable. It has three main towers offering offices and residences, but it also has a school, a clinic, a high-quality supermarket, luxury boutiques, and art spaces. The complex offers something that is unique, which is a full set of services not only for security but also for providing all amenities that residents will need. It provides easy access to places such as Ginza and Shibuya while allowing you to live close to everything you need in your daily life. Azabudai Hills will become a place of great convenience with no equivalent anywhere else in Tokyo. A distinctively intimat

A distinctively intimate and private shopping experience

There were two defining factors for opening a boutique in Azabudai Hills. One was being able to build a standalone store with private salons and a terrace, which is very difficult to achieve elsewhere in Tokyo. The other was the relative quietness offered by Azabudai Hills.

In areas where there is a lot of concentrated traffic— thousands of people walking around, stores that you need to line up to get into—it can be quite difficult to offer that kind of relaxed atmosphere. Here, we can offer a shopping experience that promises intimacy and privacy.

This is the first Cartier boutique in Japan to feature a terrace. The terrace provides us with a space for organizing small events for customers.In many ways, these experiences would be unique; for example, customers would be able to enjoy the natural backdrop of cherry blossoms in the spring and leaves turning in the fall.

Shaping Tokyo’s future from Azabudai Hills

© DBOX for MORI Building Company

I think that in the future, what we consider Tokyo will change. Thanks to Tokyo’s extensive transportation network, Tokyo is very close to forming one big city with cities as far away as Chiba and Yokohama. Access to airports and train terminals will become easier than ever, and the maglev lines scheduled to be completed by 2027 or later will provide faster connections to Nagoya and Osaka. We’ll soon see a day when it will be faster to go from Tokyo to Osaka than from Tokyo to Utsunomiya, which is a quarter of the distance.

The mos t affluent peopl e would once a gain congregate in central Tokyo. There will be greater growth throughout the city, particularly in Minato City where Azabudai is located—both in terms of population and the number of properties being developed. In that sense, I believe that choosing Azabudai Hills for the location of our new Cartier boutique was the best decision we could have made.


President and CEO of CARTIER SA / In 2016, Vigneron was appointed as chief executive officer of Cartier. Prior to his new role, he was president of LVMH Japan. He also worked with Richemont from 1988 to 2013, principally with Cartier, rising to become president of Cartier Japan, president of Richemont Japan, and finally, managing director of Cartier Europe.