Nippori Shopping Street – A Shotengai Worth a VisitJun 1st, 2009 | By Shane Sakata | Category: Shopping, Tokyo and Vicinity, Travel
Along the street marking the border between Yanaka and Nishi-Nippori lies a quaint shopping street (shotengai) that is home to a number of food vendors, restaurants and shops. It’s not a typical destination for most Tokyo tourists but bustles with activity nonetheless and the area is worth a visit for not only the shopping street but for one of the largest concentrations of temples and shrines in Tokyo.
Many modern shotengai (shopping streets) are pleasant enough. Wide brick or marble streets that are often covered, with stores lining each side that are protected from the elements but lack charm and personality. Not so in Nippori!
Take the west exit from Nippori Station and wander along until you reach Yuyake Dandan (pictured top right), the sunset stairway, and pause at the top to gaze down upon the narrow shotengai.
As you wander down the steps you will find a sembe (Japanese rice cracker) shop on your right and further down, a tea shop on the left. Both offer visitors a wide selection and even free samples of their tasty treats! Shops selling items that would make great souvenirs are scattered along three busy blocks that make up the Nippori shopping street as are a number of small restaurants serving sushi, curry and other Japanese foods.
We nibbled on a yaki-onigiri, a grilled rice ball basted with soy sauce, to quell our hunger before stopping at an udon shop for lunch. The shop was guarded by an obaasan (grandmother) who seemed relish her role but she didn’t deter us and was quite welcoming as we approached.
The restaurant was tiny, with a maximum capacity of approximately fifteen people, and an open kitchen. As we sat tentatively down, the chef approached us and asked us what we wanted – no English and no menu. We politely pointed at the dish of another patron and he was off making a version of undo that I gleaned was the restaurants specialty – lettuce udon! I was a little wary but it turned out to be quite good and the lettuce added freshness and a bright flavor to the broth.
But enough about me & food already! The food was good but the highlight of the area for me was the overall atmosphere and the images that adorned the facades of the buildings. The simple, graphic black & white images had me looking up and smiling with pleasure at every pause and are presented in the video below.
One could spend a whole day in the Nippori area wandering about this older part of Tokyo that for me offers a more relaxed and less commercial feel than that of Ueno or Asakusa. I highly recommend a visit!
Nippori Access and Walking Map
The Nippori Station in Tokyo can be accessed via the Yamanote Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, or Joban Line. Download the Arakawa City Nippori Walking Map (front & back – both are PDF files) and look for Yuyake Dandan (#4 beside the Bunkyo City legend on the map) to visit the Nippori Shopping Street.
Image & Video Credit: Personal Collection