Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shopping Streets III - Japan

When you are in Japan, there's always one thing that you will notice that's different from any other country you visit. The way their local shops are set up in a cooperative known as a shopping street. I've mentioned about the shopping streets in Kyoto previously - Kiyomizuzaka and Sannenzaka.

In any city, you will find shopping streets like Oxford Street in London, Rodeo Drive in LA or Orchard Road in Singapore. These are major thoroughfare with malls and brand name shops along the street usually on both sides. More often they will be known locally as Main Street or High Street shops.

But in Japan, the shopping streets are distinctly different and have a unique flavor all of its own. The shopping streets tend to comprise small shops banded together rather than having malls or brand name shops.
Famous shopping streets in Tokyo would be Takeshitadori in Harajuku, Nakamise Street at Asakusa, Ameyokocho at Ueno or Sunshine 60 Street at Ikebukuro. These are unlike 'Main Streets' like the Ginza, Shibuya or Shinjuku which are dominated by major departmental stores.

In these 'neighborhood' shopping streets, you will find that shops are usually of no particular type. You will typically find restaurants next to clothing stores, cafes next to market stalls, shoe shops beside pharmacies. These shops are mainly owner occupied and most work under an informal association arrangement and you will find that many streets are covered with a roof over the street.

Typically, these streets are 100m to 200m long and going through these streets are a must if you visit Japan. The shopping streets usually do not have vehicular traffic so you can safely browse along the streets most of which have their wares all laid outside to attract customers.
The atmosphere and friendliness of the shopkeepers are completely different from those of the major departmental stores on 'Main Street' shops.

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