”Nigiwai-no-zo” or stone image of prosperity stands just in front of the Ameyoko Center Building.
More than 400 specialty stores are clustered close together in the discount market where most people lose their senses of prices.
Under the viaduct for JR Yamate Line between “Ueno” to “Okachimachi” stations, various kinds of stores are clustered close together. This is “Ameyoko Shopping Street” which is a most famous discount market in Japan.
We feel something nostalgic atmosphere even in a milling crowd, this is because we can enjoy shopping while exchanging words with store clerks.
“Ameyoko” or “Ameya-Yokochō” is one of the most popular shopping streets in Ueno. It is located under and along the JR line between Ueno and Okachimachi. Its official name is “Ameyoko Shoten-gai Rengokai”(アメ横商店街連合会), but it is often called “Ameyoko,” “Ueno-ameyoko,” or “Ameyoko Shoten-gai,” and most shops in the street put “Ameyoko” beside of their names. The length of the shopping street is about 400 meters and over 400 retail stores are running business here.
“Tokyo Edo Theater” in the NHK TV drama
The shooting for the recent popular NHK TV drama “Ama-chan” was on location in Ameyoko. In the story, “Tokyo Edo Theater” for the popular singing group “Ameyoko Jogakuen” was located in the Ameyoko Center Building.
Brief history of the “Ameya-Yokocho”
After World War II, the black market was developed in the area, and a variety of goods were displayed in the street. Especially, more than 200 “ameya” candy shops existed here, so citizens commonly called the shopping street as “ameyoko.” Even now, a few candy shops still running business here.
It used to be a very crowded housing area consisted of small private houses and old row houses. During World War II, compulsory evacuation was done because there was the electric substation for JR line and citizens tried to avoid danger from Tokyo Air Raid.
Finally, the area was completely destroyed by the air raid in 1945. Among number of shanties and shops, stall keepers also started business in the district after the war. They were commonly called “yami-ichi” or illegal stall keepers.
Without sufficient moral, there were frequent struggles between outlaws, such as “gurentai” hooligans and “boryokudan” gangsters. Gunfire cases were often seen even in the daytime. Officers from both American MP and Japanese police were in charge against them.
Tokyo municipal government could not govern the aria, and plead with businessman Mr. Hirokichi Kondo for organizing the market called “Kondo Market.” He carefully selected 80 members and excluded dubious people from the market. The area was gradually normalized after that.
Most Koreans were excluded from the market, because they illegally run business in the district. They had no choice but moved to Higashi-ueno for setting up their own market so-called “kimuchi-yokocho.”
As time passed, “Ameyoko Center Building” was built at the old site of JR Electric Substation in 1982, and the area has became the present circumstances.
“Ameyoko” is still attractive in a bewitching way with the black market period atmosphere
|Under the JR elevated railway line, a large number of small stores selling for various kinds of food items, such as fresh seafood, meat, groceries, imported candies, are located.|
At present, according to the type of business, stores are intensively lined in the market, such as food (mainly seafood and groceries), clothes, miscellaneous goods, and jewels and ornaments.
It is just a small scale market in about 10 minutes walk, but you need more than 20 to 30 minutes on the end of the year, because a large number of citizens tend to come arrive and purchase fresh seafood for the new years holidays.
The crowded market in December is often introduced on TV and brings us the real feeling of the end of the year.
During this special season, almost all of stores in the market display food for the New Year holidays, and even some stores dealing in Western-style apparel and accessories stop running business and rent temporally their stores to food dealers. It becomes something like the Tsukiji Fish Market. Compare to “Ameya-yokocho,” the Tsukiji Fish Market is a municipal enterprise under Tokyo-to, and mainly for seafood wholesalers, but not for general citizens.
On the other hand, “Ameya-yokocho” is for citizens and prices will be discounted depending on your negotiations with store clerks.
In 1980s, seafood stores had been reduced in number at the market because of the trend toward the nuclear family. On the other hand, sports supply shops have been increased in 1990s for attracting young people.
On the basement floor of the “Ameyoko Center Building,” there are a number of stores for special ethnic food materials, such as for Chinese and Indian dishes. You can hear different sound of conversation between these Chinese or Indian arrivals and shop clerks.
|You may lose in a maze in the Ameyoko Market. Try to enjoy treasure hunting at each characteristic shop, such as rare brand watches, knives, and lighters.|
Every day in the yearend, the market will be crowded with 500,000 arrivals including sightseeing people from all over Japan. Of course it is only for the busiest period, and the market normally has about 100,000 arrivals a day. Contrarily to other shopping streets in Japan, it is not depended on local customers.
If you hear death growl of clerks at seafood shop front, usually salmon or tuna is on sale at the special discounted prices.
Most other seafood is usually dealt with the price tag, and hard to ask discount, but discount sale will be expected in the evening. At the end of the year, most stores display special supplies for the holiday season.
Some general merchandise stores in the market sometimes rent their space for these seafood dealers for this busiest season.
Usually seafood items will be dealt with higher prices, but there are still discount sale on this busiest season.
Excluding some defective article, most items of fruit are not on discount sale.
During the Showa period, most cosmetics were sold at about 20 percent discounted prices.