It’s not hard to find a place to shop in Tokyo’s Okachimachi district. As soon as you step out of the subway station, a tall sign signals that you have arrived at Ameyoko— Candy Shop Alley.
As you wait to cross the street into Ameyoko, a long path alive with brightly colored signs and flags stretches out before you. Red, yellow, green, and blue– this is the Tokyo you have only seen in pictures, and now you’re standing right in the middle of it.
By the time the traffic signal changes, a crowd has formed at the crosswalk to carry you into Ameyoko. It’s not clear what you will find on the other side, but at least you know you won’t be alone. There are a surprising number of people here for a Friday morning, but the weather is perfect, the sky is blue, and there’s shopping to be done. That’s Ameyoko in a nutshell.
The variety of shops in Ameyoko is staggering. Each shop specializes in something different, from shoes, to jewelry, to candy. There’s no apparent order to the shops either– a store selling diamond rings might be right next to a shop selling raw fish laid out on a different kind of ice.
The one constant at every store are the salesmen. They are a boisterous bunch, doing their best to make sure you are fully aware that their shop has a special sale for “one day only!” You pass by a shop selling women’s handbags and see a salesman standing on a step ladder with hands cupped around his mouth, beckoning shoppers to enter.
Moments later you turn back to see that he now has a megaphone.
At least the salesman doesn’t discriminate. He yells and waves his sign at shoppers passing by the shop, but then he turns around and yells at the people already inside the shop as well. You pass fruit stalls selling “American cherries” at extravagant prices and snack shops with entire sections devoted to Senbei (Japanese rice crackers).
Further down the path you find a Buddhist temple sandwiched between a 99 yen store and yet another snack shop.
It seems odd to find such a peaceful scene in the midst of these crowds and noisy salesmen, but you are only half-surprised. This is Ameyoko, after all.
5 Days in Tokyo
- Otsuka — Tucked between Tokyo’s hot spots is a place where golden hour never ends.
- A Different View of Harajuku — We discover that serenity is surprisingly easy to find in Harajuku.
- Lost in Ebisu — A random stop in Tokyo turns out to be more than we bargained for.
- Old Town Akihabara — Pass under the bridge to a different side of Tokyo’s futuristic district.
- Ginza to Tsukiji — A search for fresh fish leads to a surprising discovery about Tokyo’s Ginza district.
- Lunch at Tsukiji Fish Market — This is where you go to get the freshest fish in Tokyo.
- The Solitary Soldier — Sunset at Japan’s Imperial Palace.
- Finding Peace in Hibiya Park — A small pocket of peace amidst Tokyo’s never-ending activity.
- Cats of Hibiya Park — Hanging out with some furry friends.
- Saturday in Ikebukuro — Ikebukuro. Weekend. It’s over.
- Okachimachi Crunchy — Walking down Tokyo’s multifaceted shopping boulevard.
- Hidden Yanaka — Frozen in time.