Izakaya specializing in seafood and sashimi dishes (Photo: Ricky Buble)

A Stroll Through Sangenjaya

Daily life on a shotengai (local shopping street)

Izakaya specializing in seafood and sashimi dishes (Photo: Ricky Buble)
Maria   - 3 min read

I weaseled my way through the narrow streets crisscrossing the other side of Sangenjaya station one evening. Here, a diversity of cheap eating-places dot the streets, surrounded by izakayas (bars) of many sizes. Young ladies and men stand outside their drinking spots yelling irashaimase (Welcome!) handing you pamphlets whilst gabbling a string of Japanese detailing their specials of the night: 120 yen beers, free flow of house wines, ridiculously cheap set menus—and the list goes on. Amongst the lively atmosphere you can also find small boutiques and thrift stores selling household accessories: towels, crockery, stationary, clothes and other small random gadgets, also for very affordable prices.

During the late afternoon it's a whole different scenery. Mothers and wives on their mama-charis (granny bikes) do their daily groceries, and groups of school children are seen walking home, buying snacks from the numerous street stalls. In the past, shotengais (local shopping streets), usually distinguished by different colored paved roads, were all over the city. These shopping streets were once a very popular place to do your daily shopping—with butchers, bakeries, fruit and vegetable shops; as well as offering services such as dry cleaning, hair salons and massage parlors, the locals did not have to travel far. It provided a place to catch up with your neighbors and instilled a sense of unity amongst the people who relied on the shopping street as it was in close proximity to their homes. Now, however, with an ageing population and new departmental stores opening up in more popular areas owing to globalization, few shotengais remain, and those that do are relatively small and inactive compared to say 7 years ago. This one, however, still has that vibe that is so rarely felt nowadays.

To get to this shotengai, you must cross to the side opposite Carrot Tower on the 246. A small street between Mister donut and Gindako paves the way; from there smaller side streets and alleys branch off left and right.

In addition to being able to experience the local atmosphere and enjoy drinking in the back streets, Sangenjaya offers superb ramen—just take a stroll down the 246 and you will see small stalls with various cuttings of reviews and recommendations found in newspapers and magazines plastered on the glass doors.

Once you're full, head to the top of Carrot Tower where there is a look out (free admission), and small cafe with a fantastic view. I used to come here to study and unwind because it's always quiet with few people. If you have a few hours to kill and are interested in getting a feel of the local life, Sangenjaya is a great place to explore just two stops away from Shibuya on the Den-en-toshi line.

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Maria @ricky.buble

Over the past 19 years I have grown up in Tokyo and have yet to tire of this amazing city! There are so many things worth exploring if you just have the time to get lost in the many back streets and alleyways.