I concluded my previous post by describing Kyojima as a place with a “village feel” and this is most evident by spending time in Kyojima’s shopping street. I’m unsure as to the street’s name, but I think it is Tachibana Ginza, though my advice is to just wander around Kyojima and you will find it, as I suspect all streets lead to the shopping street (shotengai).
Despite enjoying my base in Harajuku during my stay, I wished Harajuku had such a place to shop for fresh foods and it is a reminder that streets like these are under threat in all developed societies. It is such a shame that future generations may never experience the sense of community from buying their everyday needs from merchants who rely more on friendly relationships than slick marketing programs. At a personal level, I recall my Father’s butcher shop being a social hub where people would share local news (and gossip of course), not to mention his knowledge of customers’ favourite cuts ensuring their ongoing patronage. The shrink-wrapped equivalent from the supermarket is …. well it’s not an equivalent at all is it?
Kyojima’s shotengai is old Tokyo, yet it fits new Tokyo if one listens to Kyojima’s newer residents. Urban planning is always a difficult and challenging process, yet one hopes a way can be found to retain these old shotengai within the inevitable urban renewal process. Given Japan’s reverence for maintaining old traditions, it is perhaps more likely to succeed than other nations.
Today’s photos start with MuuMuu Coffee (pics 1 and 2), which also features in an earlier post (Cafes on January 6, 2014), followed by a selection of shots showing shopkeepers and customers. I was quite taken by the wheelchair bound woman (pic 3) enjoying a relaxing shopping expedition accompanied, one assumes, by her son. Can one be this relaxed in a food hall?
Much as the wares on display in Ginza’s food halls impress me, is not the timeless appeal of Toshi’s greengrocery (pic 4) just as impressive? The personalised service and sense of community is aptly conveyed by pics 7 and 8, where Yumiko can be seen attending to an elderly customer (pic 7) and enjoying a chat with a local resident (pic 8). Yumiko’s café serves a range of popular snacks including takoyaki (octopus balls) and taiyaki, which are fish shaped cakes served with hot fillings such as red bean paste.
Perhaps pic 9 is most reminiscent of old Tokyo through the photographic memories on display. I would like to be able to tell you more about this shop, but it was untended each time I passed. Pics 10 and 11 are shots of students visiting from Kanazawa to promote their city. I remember them well. My presence became an opportunity for English practice and it was fortunate I had visited Kanazawa a few days earlier.
I suspect most visitors to Tokyo would not visit this shotengai and I hope this post may encourage more visitors. Visiting the Ginza and Kyojima’s shopping street may be at opposite ends of the shopping spectrum, but each is a “wow” experience.
(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)
June 25, 2015 at 7:49 pm
As always, I love how reading your posts reminds me of a breezy stroll down favourite (cobbled would be best), quiet lanes, which allow much space for thought and imagination to mingle finely and remind one, eventually of fave memories of blessed places once visited.
An enjoyable post – and I especially love and agree with the musing on the personalized nature of grocery stalls or stallholders who manage their shops via a more down-to-earth, face-to-face connection that naturally gives rise to more talk and personalised service that may well be more heart-warming than purchases influenced by marketing strategies.
I grew up watching my mother converse with grocers at neighbourhood markets in the local lingo, with all parties handling the communication of recent events in the family, neighbourhood or nation pretty well despite coming from various cultural or linguistic backgrounds. As you noted, there are grocers or sellers of poultry from these markets with well-earned credibility by dint of their touch of personalised service for their regular customers – a lovely business strategy tempered with heart.
Thank you for this treat of a post that definitely leaves one looking forward to more. Do take good care.
June 27, 2015 at 12:05 am
Thank you for your generous comment and it’s heartwarming to read that the post conjured up similar personal memories of times past. Whilst I understand today’s demand for convenience, it is nevertheless sad that the warmth of these shotengai is being lost, not only in Japan but throughout the world. It would seem that the intrinsic values once assigned to the work we perform is yet another casualty of the ever increasing complexity of the modern world. Still, it is nice to have the memories. Take care.