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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrLots of people know about Shibuya, Shinjuku, or Harajuku as the popular shopping areas in Tokyo. These places have very prominent names in Japanese pop culture and are well-known among locals and tourists who might have only gotten so far in their research. Bright neon signs line the streets in these districts, overlooking the busy crowds trampling along. To anyone who has heard about interesting Japanese fashion, these places are where such can be seen in real life, in throngs of differently yet smartly dressed people.
On the other hand, one of the lesser-known shopping streets in Tokyo would be the Ameyoko Shopping Area, a local bustling hub tucked away in Taito City. It’s less fashionable than the other shopping areas but shoppers definitely won’t come home empty-handed nor disappointed.
Etymology & HistoryThe more formal name for Ameyoko is actually “Ameya-Yokocho”, the literal translation for which is “candy shop alley”. Originally known to be lined with stalls selling sweets, the area became an underground business hub catering to the trade of sweet potatoes and some surplus goods after World War II.
Today, Ameyoko, as it is more fondly known, is lined with a bevy of over 400 stores selling clothes, shoes, cosmetics, bags, street food, and fresh produce at below the normal prices. It is also home to a handful of bars where weary employees grab a bottle before heading home.
FeaturesQuite unlike Shibuya, Shinjuku, or Harajuku, Ameyoko is where the cheaper stuff can be found - from fresh fish that are sold at discounted prices at sundown to marked down sporting goods, apparel, and shoes. Don’t count on the chocolate bananas to be cheap though as fruits are generally expensive in Japan, so are the fruit treats sold on the streets.
Nonetheless, travelers wanting to experience shopping in Tokyo but have a small budget for this activity will definitely find shopping here quite a delight.
Fresh Foods and Dried GoodiesIt is common practice in Japan to sell fresh food at discounted prices at sundown. The Japanese give so much premium to agricultural products being fresh that even if a shopper buys fish on the same day but actually gets it at the end of the day, it’s likely that the fish will already be sold at about 30% to 50% off.
Ameyoko is one of the places where fresh seafood can be bought at such discounted prices. Not to mention that seafood here is already cheaper. Because of this, Ameyoko could get very packed as New Year draws closer with people scrambling to get their hands on ingredients for their holiday feasts. Sea urchin, octopus, and salmon are, after all, common ingredients of many Japanese dishes and are sold for cheap prices in Ameyoko.
SportswearAside from cheap seafood, Ameyoko is also the place to find sportswear at discounted prices. Spot boxes can be seen overflowing with Reebok dry-fit shirts, priced at slightly below $ 10 USD and tracksuits being sold for as low as $ 6.00 USD . Athletic shoes like soccer cleats or low-cut basketball shoes go for as low as $ 18 USD while it’s also possible to score a sports bag for only $ 10 USD . Compare this to how much these goods are being sold in boutiques in Shibuya or Shinjuku and you will get an idea of how satisfied cheapskate sports enthusiasts would be when they visit this gem of a shopping street in Ueno.
Head off for London Sports to get started.
FootwearShoes at Ameyoko are another cheap product for tourists to avail. From boots to sneakers, ladies’ and men’s dress shoes to kicks for kids - it is very difficult not to be drawn to those racks of shoes standing on the sides of the streets at the Ameyoko Shopping Area. What makes them even more irresistable are the signs on the shoe boxes screaming “40% Off!” or “50% off!”
It’s no wonder that shoppers at Ameyoko could hardly go home with just one shopping bag or buying just one pair of shoes. Shopping for shoes here isn’t just for young people looking for statement cheap Nikes. Shoes cost so much less that families could stick to their budget and still buy each family member a pair.
ABC Mart is a good start for shoe shopping.
IzakayaAfter all the shopping has been done, it’s time to sit down and mingle over mugs of sake or glasses of good, old, Japanese beer. Head towards the main entrance of Ueno Station where izakaya or local watering holes sit side by side.
Here, it’s common to see men in suits discussing animatedly while munching on edamame (boiled and salted soybean pods) as they wait for their orders of skewered meat, chicken, or vegetables. These places can get quite loud with the roar of throaty laughter but it’s all part of the experience. Watch out though for people tumbling out through the door. These drinking sessions could go far beyond just a bottle and way beyond someone’s alcohol tolerance.
SurroundingsThe following attractions are just around the corner from Ameyoko Shopping Area.
By taking the Yamanote Line from Okachimachi Station, it’s possible to travel to these other amazing stops from Ameyoko Shopping Area:
By TrainAmeyoko can be accessed by rail through two stations, Ueno and Okachimachi.
The Ueno Station exit closest to Ameyoko would be 5B. Coming from that exit, go straight and turn left at the third corner when you see the Taito Game Station. You’ll see the “Ameya-Yokocho” arch from there.
From Okachimachi Station, exit towards the brightly lit Uniqlo building, cross Kasuga Dori and walk towards Kasuga Dori. Turn right when you see McDonald’s on a street to your right and start exploring the Ameyoko Shopping Area from there.
On FootTwo prominent roads near the Ameyoko Shopping Area are Chuo Dori and Kasuga Dori. The shopping area actually sits on the corner of these two roads. So people coming from the Bunkyo (Tokyo Dome, Tokyo University) could actually walk the length of Kasuga Dori to get to Ameyoko, cross Chuo Dori, walk a little farther, and turn left on the first corner. This walk should take about 30 minutes when coming from Hongo Sanchome Station.
From the Chiyoda Area (Akihabara, Kanda), it is possible to follow Chuo Dori until it takes you to the intersection at Kasuga Dori. Cross the street, turn right, and turn left on the first corner. Walking from Akihabara to Ameyoko should take about 15 minutes.
Other InformationWebsite: http://www.ameyoko.net/
Peak Time: Holidays, Weekends
Opening Hours: 10am - 7pm, some stores close on Wednesday
Activities: Shopping, Eating, Arcade, Karaoke
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Author: chaipuyod. Last updated: Sep 18, 2014