Exploring Ameya-Yokochō Market
After finishing up in Ueno park, we started off towards Asakusa. Passing by Ueno station, we stopped off in Ameya-Yokochō. Ameya-Yokochō is a marketplace home to over one hundred and eighty-one shops occupying about 164,227 square feet outside of Ueno station.
The market consists of two streets, which run parallel to the train line. The first street is mainly street vendors selling local produce and fresh food while the other street is mostly permanent shops which sell everyday goods and slightly more upscale merchandise.
The name Ameya-Yokochō comes from the word "ameya" which in Japanese means "candy store". After WWII sugar was hard to obtain but in this area of Japan, there were many candy stores still selling the precious sweets. Even today you can still find a few stores selling Japanese candy.
I was on the look-out for a cheap umbrella. Something small that I could use while in Japan but throw out before returning to Toronto. We walked down a few rows of stores before we finally found a stall that was overflowing with different umbrellas. I chose a pretty pink one with lace trim. I only paid $5 for it so I was sure it would last only a few rainstorms but luckily for me, it turned out to be pretty sturdy and still is sitting in our umbrella stand today.
This area of Tokyo was once also the spot to find black market items after the war, and although all the shops on the street are now completely legalised, there is still a sense of things not quite being what they seem. Stores will be open and shut at odd hours and shops that were open one day appear to have disappeared the next.
One of the best things about markets like this is the strangeness of the things for sale. We passed by stores which sold exclusively vintage pictures of Japanese starlets. Or at least that who I assumed these people were but I guess for all I know they were the owner's relatives...
There was a good blend of tourist souvenir shops as well as shops that locals frequented for their everyday household items. From further research, it seems like if you're in the market for a kimono or yukata, this is the place to find a good deal. Since it's not just for the tourists, there's an excellent blend of quality and affordability in those type of items.
There were even a few stores selling what seemed to be hand made jewellery and crafty items.
Our favourite stores had to be the toy shops since they had an array of strange and slightly creepy items. Pouring over the shelves was like investigating an abandoned storage locker. Everything was so random, which only made it all the more fun to look through.
Another very common shop found in the markets was the spice shop. These stores have barrels, boxes and bins full of any spice you could think of. It felt more like a Morrocan bazaar than a side street in Japan.
The fruit sellers were also an incredible thing to explore. Sure they had the regular, everyday fruits like we have in North America, but they also sell luxury fresh fruit and veg. These are sold at sky high prices and are thought to taste better than the normal fruit. You can find square watermelons, white strawberries, giant peaches and even grapes which taste like candy. Expect to pay a pretty penny for them but if you're just browsing, be sure to see what strange things are on offer.
Ameya-Yokocho is home to some impressive buildings. I found so many brightly coloured skyscrapers and even seemingly everyday apartments that were covered in iridescent tiles, making them shine like a pearl at the bottom of the ocean.
Aside from the fantastical buildings, one of our fave things about Japan was the common curtsey everyone gives to each other and the strides they are making to ensure everyday safety. These little signs plastered on the sidewalk were there to make sure smokers didn't walk around with lit cigarettes. I have been hit countless times by a smoker who has thrown their cigarette butt on the ground, which instead hits and burns my leg. As someone who seems to attract this kind of accident, I appreciate the extra effort they're making here. And with such cute design.