Things we love #1 – Shotengai (Japanese Shopping streets)
Shotengai are traditional Japanese shopping arcades that are usually found in the busiest parts of a neighborhood. It usually runs along a long narrow street and many of the shops are family-run. It’s a great place to buy local produce and buy the local specialties. Sadly, with the rise of supermarkets, the Shotengais are diminishing.
There’s LOTS you can do at a Shotengai – but what we love to do the most is EAT and just stroll around the streets.
Why we like Shotengais
- A Shotengai is a great place to experience the Japanese local specialities (Example: Senbei – rice crackers) since most shops are family run and the taste of home-made food is..well, unique and healthy too! We had a lot of fun trying out different kinds of food here – especially at the place we frequented, we had food from all over Japan bigsmile
- Shotengais often conduct flea-market sales. They even have morning markets which is a great way to stock up on fresh produce for cheaper prices.
- They also often host numerous festivals. We were lucky enough to view the Awa Odori dance while shopping there. It was really beautiful.
- Most shotengai have many game centers (ゲームセンター). We love playing the “claw crane” games and the Taiko: drum master!
4 Shopping streets you must visit
1. Osu Kannon Shopping Street (Nagoya)
The Osu shopping Arcade in Nagoya is our favorite because it was the first Shotengai we visited. Osu shopping Arcade is located next to the Osu kannon temple. It has over 400 shops and it often compared to Tokyo’s Akihabara because it has a wide range of J-pop and anime goods (check out: MANDRAKE!).
2. Asakusa Nakamise Shotengai (Asakusa Tokyo)
This is one of Japans’ oldest Shotengais. Nakamise shopping streets starts at the famous Kaminarimon-gate and stretches 250 meters towards the Sensoji Temple. This area is always bustling with tourists. The 90 or so shops lined up on this street specialize in souvenirs and many traditional trinkets.
3. Shinsaibashi-suji, Ebisu (Osaka)
This bustling shopping arcade has a long history dating back to around 400 years (Edo-period). It is one of the largest and most popular shopping districts in Osaka. This street has a lot of brand name stores that are really popular with the Japanese people.
4. Sanjo-kai, Kyoto
Image by Jose Hernandez
This is one of the liveliest Shotengais in Kyoto. Located near Nijo-caste, this street stretches for about 800-meters and lines up around 180 shops. It’s a community-based shotengai where many cafes are opening up recently in order to keep up with the modern culture and attract youngsters.
Bonus – For Anime fans
We’ve always felt that anime and dramas are a great way to understand Japan better. To get a feel of the everyday life of a Shotengai family shop owner’s daughter – we recommend watching “Tamako Market.”
Tamako market, is an anime about Tamako Kitashirakawa , the eldest daughter of a family which runs a mochi shop in her town’s bustling Usagiyama Shopping district. One day, Tamako encounters a strange talking bird named Dera Mochimazzi who takes up residence in her home. The series follows the everyday life of Tamako, her friends, family and neighbors, and this peculiar bird.
It’s a fun and light-hearted anime!
Have you been to a shotengai? Do you prefer supermarkets to Shotengais? Let us know in the comments!