Monday, August 6, 2018

Ameyoko - Street Shopping in Tokyo Town (Tokyo, Japan)

Shopping is one aspect of travel that I find tricky. Not for stuff I'd use but as gifts for the people back home. I'm not very good with it because I am impatient, and haggling isn't one of my better talent. On long haul trips, I'd usually do it the last few days before flying home. So I like places where you can get a variety of stuff all in one go. That's why day and night markets are convenient. 

Ameyoko is such place; a market street along the Yamanote line tracks set between Okachimachi and Ueno. I didn't think Tokyo had one amidst the metropolitan's glitzy malls. This is the city's version of Manila's Divisoria or Baclaran, London's Camden and Portobello; Taipei's Shillin, or Bangkok's Chatuchak. It has several adjoining streets filled with garments, shoes, bags, souvenir items you can only find in Japan, medicine, cosmetics, fruits, vegetables, chocolates and candies.

Yes, candies! In its early days, Ameyoko was traditionally a candy store alley ("Ameya Yokocho"), thus its name, which got shorter - Ameyoko. These days, the mercantile spirit has thrived into a mecca for the inveterate shopper. 

From Shinjuku, I took my subway ride and decided to get off at Okachimachi instead of Ueno which is always a busy station. Once outside, I asked an old man who readily pointed me across the street. There was a huge sign in Japanese characters, but that should be it. In no time, I was able to get what I wanted but was amazed with the volume of products being sold here, particularly shoes like Adidas and Nike. Surely, in AC shops, they're a lot more expensive. This is the cheaper incarnation of the Tokyo I know. 

I liked the fruit and vegetable section. In the land of cherry blossoms, there ought to be cherries, and there were, sold rather cheaply. Plump, sweet cherries. I bought a couple of plates for consumption in my hotel room later. The variety of fruits wasn't particularly impressive but July was probably a lean month for them. In Davao, the month is fruit season, leading towards Kadayawan festival in August.

Surprisingly, I stumbled across a Buddhist temple flanked between shops, accessible through a flight of stairs - the Marishiten Tokudaiji Temple. It's a medium sized temple providing a serene atmosphere in the middle of the hustle of Ameyoko. Enshrined is the ancient Indian guardian goddess of good luck that protected the temple against the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the bombing of Tokyo in 1945 during World War II. Almost no one visits in daytime. Our separate post about the temple is up next.

There's a spot in Ameyoko where a cute statue of a black cat-like Buddha sits on lotus. People usually stop and have their selfies taken with it so I figure it must be the street's mascot, right where the street forks into two more streets of commerce. Don't miss it!

Ameyoko's landmark is this official mascot?

Marishiten Tokudaiji Temple

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