Shotengai is a Japanese neighborhood’s shopping street. Usually connected or located within the vicinity of a train station, it is a cluster of mom and pop shops, convenience stores, local businesses, cafés, and eateries that mostly cater to the residents of the surrounding locale. It is worlds away from the glamor and wow factor of Japan’s modern shopping malls, but on the other hand, it more than compensates with its local charm, the feeling of community, and the opportunity to get a glimpse of everyday life. Strolling along these alleys, visitors can eat and shop as locals would, and experience a side of Japan that many tourists miss out on.

Being the densely-populated capital city that it is, Tokyo is, of course, home to a great number of shotengai. If your travel style is to really immerse in the local culture, a trip to a shotengai is a must. Find your way to any one of these 10 best shotengai shopping streets in Tokyo.

Togoshi Ginza Shopping Street

Starting with the longest shopping street not just in Tokyo, but also in the entire Kanto Region, Togoshi Ginza Shotengai in Shinagawa spans 1.3 kilometers with more than 400 establishments to fill your curiosity. Of these, be sure to keep your eye on some of this street’s popular food haunts: Goto Kamaboko’s oden croquette, Nakamura Chushoten’s meat croquettes, and Tori & Deli’s karaage chicken dishes. Don’t be guilty to try as much street food as you like; you’ll need the energy exploring this massive shotengai!

Address: 3 Chome-1-18 Togoshi, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo

Website: http://www.togoshiginza.jp/en/

Goto Kamaboko: http://510oden.com/ (Japanese only)

Nakamura Chushoten: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1317/A131712/13172790/ (Japanese only)

Tori & Deli: http://en.toriand.com/aloha.html

Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street

Drop by Yanaka Ginza Shotengai for a trip down memory lane. This shotengai is as traditional as it can be, especially with its atmosphere that feels like you’re transported back to Tokyo during the mid-20th century. It is packed with around 70 shops, some of which sell souvenir-worthy items like quirky Japanese seals by Shinimo Gurui, bamboo crafts by Midoriya, and Japanese clogs called Geta by Hamamatsuya. At the same time, accompany your stroll with sweet and savory treats such as menchikatsu meat croquettes from Niku No Sato or cat-shaped taiyaki from Manekiya. If you happen to be in the area around sunset, find your way to the stairs near the eastern entrance of the shopping street. This spot offers a scenic view of the bustling shotengai below and the neighborhood around it.

Address: 3-13-1 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Website: http://www.yanakaginza.com/ (Japanese only)

Shinimo Gurui: http://www.ito51.com/ (Japanese only)

Midoriya: http://www.yanakaginza.com/shop/midoriya/ (Japanese only)

Hamamatsuya: http://www.yanakaginza.com/shop/hamamatsuya/ (Japanese only)

Niku No Sato: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1311/A131106/13008470/ (Japanese only)

Manekiya: http://www.manekiya-gurume.com/ (Japanese only)

Ueno Ameyoko Shopping Street

Ameyoko Shopping Street in Ueno is one of the most popular shotengai in all of Japan. It is known for discount shopping, a very downtown vibe, and packed crowds from day ‘til night. It used to be a black market area, hence, part of its charm is its somewhat rowdy atmosphere. It is colorful, lively, and most of all, welcoming of anyone seeking for an adventure. Top things to do when visiting this shotengai are sampling its street food, having a drink at an izakaya, and shopping for bargains. To give you a headstart, some of the recommended stalls worth seeking out are Minatoya Shokuhin for its takoyaki and seafood donburi (rice bowl), Motsuyaki Daitoryo for drinks, and Shimura Shoten for chocolate bargain shopping!

Address: 6-10-7 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Website: http://ameyoko.net/ (Japanese only)

Minatoya Shokuhin: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1311/A131101/13050793/ (Japanese only)

Motsuyaki Daitoryo: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1311/A131101/13124105/ (Japanese only)

Shimura Shoten: http://ameyoko.la.coocan.jp/ (Japanese only)

Asakusa Nakamise-Dori Shopping Street

Nakamise-dori Shopping Street is perhaps the most well-known shotengai especially among visiting tourists in Japan. It is the market street that leads directly to Sensoji Temple – Tokyo’s oldest and most visited one, and at 250 meters long, it is lined with around 90 stalls selling mostly traditional items good for souvenirs like chopsticks, yukata, geta, and old-school toys. When it comes to food, treat the trip to Nakamise-dori also as an opportunity to sample popular traditional treats like Azuma’s kibidango (soft mochi on sticks coated with kinako powder), Kokonoe’s age-manju (sweet deep-fried cakes with filling), and Asakusa Chochin’s ice cream monaka (mochi wafers with filling).

Address: 1-36-3 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Website: http://asakusa-nakamise.jp/e-index.html

Azuma: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1311/A131102/13057224/ (Japanese only)

Kokonoe: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1311/A131102/13003676/ (Japanese only)

Asakusa Chochin: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1311/A131102/13042795/ (Japanese only)

Sunamachi Ginza Shopping Street

Sunamachi Ginza Shotengai is the opposite of Nakamise-dori Shopping Street in the sense that it is very low-key and incredibly local. It is possible that you might not run into another tourist during your visit as it is a little bit out of the way of the usual tourist spots, but it is definitely worth the trip if you love the adventure of hunting down good food. To those in the know, Sunamachi Ginza is a delicatessen destination, where many of the shops are family-run establishments with generations-old secret recipes. A few insider tips: Shop for popular Japanese side dishes at Someya, fermented food at Sano Miso, or Okinawa-style foodstuff at Okinawa-kan.

Address: 3-1-1 Kita-suna, Koto-ku, Tokyo

Website: http://sunagin.main.jp/ (Japanese only)

Sano Miso: https://shop.sanomiso.com/user_data/shoplist.php (Japanese only)

Okinawa-kan: http://okinawakan-home.seesaa.net/ (Japanese only)

Sugamo Jizo-Dori Shopping Street

This shotengai is cutely called the Harajuku for grannies because most of the stores in this 800-meter long shopping street cater to their age demographic. The area is also known for the Togenzi Junko statue – believed to be a healer of ailments, and for shops that sell traditional Japanese remedies and traditional sweets, especially Shio-Daifuku (slightly salted mochi with azuki bean paste).

Address: 3 Chome-18 Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

Website: http://sugamo.or.jp/ (Japanese only)

Nakano Sunmall Shopping Street

There’s nothing too grand about Nakano Sunmall Shopping Street, but if you are so curious about getting a glimpse of what everyday life looks like for a common Tokyoite, this place should be a good starting point. Nakano, located west of Shinjuku, is one of the city’s densely populated neighborhoods, and its most famous shotengai is the daily backdrop of its commuting residents. The said shopping street is a 225 meter covered pedestrian arcade that runs from the north exit of the train station to the entrance of another local landmark made famous for its otaku culture – the Nakano Broadway. It has its share of independent shops and chain stores for cheap eats and bargain shopping. Interesting stops you might want to seek when in the area include Washiya – a store that sells mouthwatering bento meals, and Umeya – a small snack shop famous for their shaved ice dessert.

Address: 5 Chome-56-8 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Website: http://www.heart-beat-nakano.com/street/48.html (Japanese only)

Umeya: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1319/A131902/13013550/ (Japanese only)

Washiya: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1319/A131902/13012888/ (Japanese only)

Musashi Koyama Shopping Street PALM

At 800 meters long, this shopping street in Shinagawa has the bragging rights for being the longest covered shotengai in Tokyo. Like Nakano Sunmall Shopping Street, the vibe here is very locals-oriented, and is likewise a mix of familiar shops interspersed with mom-and-pops and unique hole-in-the-walls. You will never run out of things to see, browse, buy, and eat here. At the southern entrance, you will already be greeted by the appetizing smell of Toriyu’s sizzling chicken skewers, while on the other hand, if you’re quite the sweet tooth, Osama to Strawberry Café offers a very big challenge – a 60cm tall and 3.5kg heavy ice cream parfait! Can you handle it?

Address: 3 Koyama, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo

Website: http://www.musashikoyama-palm.com/sp/en/palmguide/

Toriyu: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1317/A131710/13008361/ (Japanese only)

Osama to Strawberry: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1317/A131710/13043135/ (Japanese only)

Happy Road Ohyama Shopping Street

If you’re looking for something more laid back, then Happy Road Ohyama Shotengai in Itabashi ward should do the trick. As it caters to a smaller neighborhood, it does not get too crowded compared to the other shopping streets mentioned in this list. Not to say that it’s less interesting, though. In fact, this community of around 200+ stores prides itself for having a high concentration of family-run businesses – many of which are run by third and fourth generation local families. Suffice to say, making a trip to this area guarantees a unique experience, one way or another. Starting with food finds: Arai is well-known for it katsu, K’s Kitchen for its sandwiches, and Shudokudo for its traditional Japanese sweets.

Address: 49-1 Oyamacho, Itabashi, Tokyo

Website: http://haro.or.jp/ (Japanese only)

Arai: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1322/A132203/13131282/ (Japanese only)

K’s Kitchen: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1309/A130905/13121785/ (Japanese only)

Shudokudo: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1322/A132203/13145241/ (Japanese only)

Kichijoji Sunroad Shopping Street

Kichijoji may be a suburban neighborhood, but it is quickly gaining popularity as one of Tokyo’s up and coming locales. Surrounded by college campuses, it is a favorite hang out place for the city’s younger crowd with hipster sensibilities. Hence, it is a place where you can expect to find a good number of independent bars and cafés, shops selling artisanal products, and boutiques run by local designers. Kichijoji’s shopping district is actually a network of streets within the vicinity of the train station, but what’s considered the main artery and representative of the neighborhood is the Kichijoji Sun Road. It is hard to pick out stand out stores as there are too many interesting ones, but if you need a companion while exploring, go pick up a menchikatsu at Meat Shop Sato, or some sweet treats at Okashi no Machioka.

Address: 1 Chome-15 Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino-shi, Tokyo

Website: http://sun-road.or.jp/ (Japanese only)

Meat Shop Sato: http://www.shop-satou.com/ (Japanese only)

Okashi no Machioka: https://www.machioka.co.jp/ (Japanese only)

 

Thumbnail image is from Flickr.