A Deep, Fascinating History - Shitamachi Ninjo Kirakira Tachibana Shopping Street
When you're exploring Tokyo’s Sumida ward, it’s hard to miss the ultra-modern Tokyo Skytree. But if you're looking for a peek into an older side of Tokyo, just 1 kilometer away in the Kyojima Area you can enjoy the retro charm of the Shitamachi Ninjo Kirakira Tachibana Shotengai shopping street.
A change of pace from the convenience stores and fancy boutiques occupying much of Tokyo, this quaint street humbly aims to provide the local community with their daily essentials.
Kyojima’s Miraculous Escape
In Japan, the notion of ‘shotengai’ shopping streets is said to have its origins in the ‘Shotengai Promotion Association Act’ of 1962. Historically, residents would have to rely on these local shops for all of their needs.
During the early Showa period (1926-1989), Kyojima and the northern areas of Sumida were packed with small factories and quickly developed into a bustling community of people looking for work and entertainment. While the intense bombings of WWII destroyed Sumida’s southern district, Kinshicho, Kyojima remained mostly undamaged. The markets grew bigger and better, with the construction of a movie theater completing the town's transformation into a thriving community. While larger chains have replaced some of the local shops, the lively spirit of Sumida can still be felt in its traditional shopping street!
Locals, Visitors, Shopkeepers - It’s All About the Fun!
Being close to the Tokyo Skytree, you might expect the shopkeepers of Kirakira Tachibana Shotengai to try reeling in customers on their way home from sightseeing. However, in the words of the shopping street's executive director: “I wouldn’t say we’re trying to reel in customers - we’re just working hard to make sure everyone is having a good time! Happy customers will surely come back again - maybe even with a friend! Those are the kind of customers we want.”
One way the shopkeepers are working to create a fresh, energetic environment is the store for rent initiative. This system allows old vacant stores to be remodeled with monetary assistance from the city and leased out to anyone wanting to open a business. After the initial period, business owners can negotiate with the landlord directly, creating an environment ideal for young entrepreneurs wanting to grow.
The most important aspect of a shotengai lifestyle is community living. Adults and children can shop for daily essentials at their own pace, while regular events pull the community together, deepening local ties and nurturing a friendly neighborhood. The store owners are always searching for new ways to promote their businesses, creating a dynamic environment.
“Fun comes first!” With jovial shop staff, smiling locals, and excited children, the words of the executive director can be seen all around Kirakira Tachibana Shotengai! So what kind of shops and people will you run into? Let’s take a look at the stores that caught our eye!
Takoyaki Konkon - Service with a Smile!
While it sits in the middle of the bustling shopping arcade, Takoyaki Konkon stands out from its surroundings. It's always surrounded by people chowing down on delicious takoyaki (fried snacks made with octopus)! According to the staff, take-out is the name of the game!
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