Friday, 12 March 2010


Okachimachi is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Tokyo. Just south of Ueno on the Yamanote line, it is a grungy street market area of food, clothes and shoes that is more reminiscent of China or South East Asia than of modern day Tokyo.   In the years after the war it was a black market area and an abundance of army disposal shops remain.  It's cheap, the quality is variable and  it's a cacophony of vendors competing with each other in the quest to get people to buy fish and vegetables, seaweed and tea. The energetic  Turkish kebab sellers join in with an 'oishii yo' , assuring passers by that their kebabs are delicious.  A basement market sells dried East Asian and Indian spices, sauces and pastes, bunches of coriander, basil and other herbs, live turtles, pigs feet and heads, all four stomachs of a cow and internal organs that you'd need to be a vet to be able to identify.  Mandarin Chinese seems to work equally well as Japanese for sales in the basement. A traditional medicine snake shop with snake baskets outside,  dried snakes in the window and a counter for eating snake based food / medicine out back,  does a steady trade while people line up next door to buy taiyaki, a traditional Japanese bean filled pikelet, of sorts.   Jewelry shops are clustered around the southern exit of the railway. They and the second hand 'brand shops', the place to go if you are in the market for a near new Louis Vuitton bag,  have prominently displayed China Union Pay credit card signs, indicating the increased importance of the Chinese tourist consumer.  ABAB, shitamachi's answer to Shibuya's 109 is a teenage girls dream with bobby dazzler socks, frilly bloomers, 
The Eastern side of the trainline is  seedier, with pachinko parlours and dubious video shops taking the place of food stuffs among the the clothes and shoe stores.   Around the corner from the Ameyoko market is Takeya, the shitamachi (poorly translated as traditional workers area) department store, easily located by the purple paint. (see below)
Takeya sprawls over 9 different buildings and sells everything except cars and trucks, houses and books;  from suits to salad to asprin to toilet seats, pens and paper, and electronics, they have it. Admittedly, like much of Okachimachi, some parts can be hit and miss. You can  find Armani suits 80% off, but you'd be lucky to find one to fit you. Fashions there are targeted at a particular demographic, and it's  not mine, but most things are reliably good and often very cheap.  It's always an adventure, and a good place to drop into if you're in the area and want to stock up but I hope they decide to upgrade their fire exist before fire regulators decide it needs to be shut.

Thoughtfully they indicate the animal the meat comes from.
All the meat is Japanese domestic, hence the higher prices.
Note meat is all sold by the 100g unit.

The main reason I go to Okachimachi: the underground basement supermarket's spice collection.  Yum yum
As well as having a huge variety of spices - things like cardamom, fennel, Sichuan pepper that are hard to get in regular supermarkets, the bags are a decent size.
My other main reason to go to Okachimachi - Turkish kebabs
After many years of eating there, I've become a valued customer -  occassionaly getting a free drink :)
This shop is great - one street back from the railway lines, near the underground basement supermarket.

The Eastern side of the train line - the flowers are outside the pachinko shop


Snake oil - literally! (note the snake baskets)
A temple wedged in between two sides of a discount supermarket / snack shop.

Tako yaki - friend octopus balls... not my taste
An izakaya under the railway lines
Food shops selling an offbeat collection of foreign goods - maple syrup, tea, coffee, biscuits, further down a shop with lentils and other legumes.
Looking east down Kasuga dori (St) towards Okachimachi station. Daikokuya second hand high ends brands is the first orange sign on the left,  yoshinoya beef bowl restaurant (a popular fast food chain) is the next orange sign, on the other side of the road a money lender and chain business suit shop.

Tea, shoes and a train rattling overhead.
Army disposal... Tokyo isn't all 'high' fashion!

ikura don (salmon eggs on rice) and various other dishes

socks at ABAB
frilly bloomers at ABAB


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