People who have visited Japan are probably familiar with the Japanese-style shotengai, a long shopping thoroughfare with shops lining both sides. I would like to recommend two shopping streets which are big and long; in fact, they are the longest two streets in Tokyo. So if you feel like shopping, taking it easy strolling through Japanese style shops and trying out some food, sweets and drinks, then catch a train and head to Shinagawa-ward.
Shinagawa is home to the biggest ‘shotengai’ or Japanese-style shopping streets in Tokyo. The first shotengai is Musashi Koyama, which is 800 meters long and has over 250 shops. The shops range from retro-looking restaurants, clothing shops, kimono shops, green tea shops and book shops to more modern-looking ones such as drug stores (which are popular cosmetic shopping places for ladies), the 100 yen shops, pachinko parlors and hairdressers.
I personally like the fresh vegetable and fruit shops, which are cheaper than the city’s supermarkets, and the sweet shops that have the potential to suck money out of your pocket. Each time I come to markets like this, before I know it my arms are full of food and sweets! But it is so much fun to get carried away like this, especially in the friendly Japanese-style markets.
For those who want to follow my footsteps, I have mapped out some interesting shops for you to try. The first shop is not too far from Musashi Koyama station. When you exit the station and walk into the main market, turn left at the first alley. The shop name is Sasuga Igarashi-en, and it specializes in fish-shaped sweets filled with red bean paste. These are a symbol of good luck and come at a price of ¥150 per piece.
From the first stop, walk two more blocks to another alley where you will see the shop named Zeitaku Senbei/Shigemori Ningyo-yaki. This shop is famous for red bean filled sweets which have the faces of the seven gods of good fortune on them, perfect for gifts to take home.
The next shop is Ohsama-to-Strawberry. This shop specialty is a giant parfait, 60 cm in height and costing ¥2,800. It may be expensive, but it’s worth the price!
While strolling around you might see some shops that put things out on sale that are incredibly cheap. I saw ladies of all ages darting to the sales and having good fun. At the end of Musashi Koyama stands a famous yakitori shop ‘Toriyu’. The smell from the shop is incredible. If you go there in the afternoon you will find a line of people waiting to get their hands on that yakitori.
A 5-10 minute walk from the end of Musashi Koyama will take you to the other market, Togoshi Ginza Shotengai. Known as the longest market in Tokyo. Togoshi Ginza Shotengai is 1.3 kilometers long and has more than 450 stores clustered together. Personally, I think this market has a more traditional Japanese feel than the last. Stores here are mostly family-run. If you look down the alleys you will see they are full of houses. I envy these people who reside just a short distance from all these yummy, cosy and inexpensive shops.
The market also has a mascot. It’s a cheeky yellow cat named ”Gin-chan” or Togoshi Ginjiro. You’ll see this cat appear in every store. If you want to come here, I recommend planning your visit for the evening, as many shops are then open for dining. Get your cold beer, sit back soaking up the atmosphere of Japan and enjoy the people-watching.
There are a number of interesting restaurants along the street. Goto-Kamaboko-ten specializes in korokke (Japanese Croquettes) filled with Oden. There are several flavor choices and the starting price is ¥90 per piece. There are also many Izakaya (Japanese style restaurant) with to choose from for an evening meal.