Tuesday 11 June 2013

Togoshi Ginza Shotengai (shopping street) makes an impression!

I like rain, I really do.  I mean, I come from the driest state in the driest continent in the world, so I am programmed to see rain as a good thing.  The city that I come from, Adelaide, has an average yearly rainfall of about 500mm.  It is one of the wettest areas in South Australia!  Tokyo gets that much rainfall from one big typhoon!  Tokyo's annual average rainfall is about 2,000mm!  Where is he going with this, I can hear you thinking.  Well, it feels like it always wants to rain on the day I go exploring for my blog!  Being that I only have one day off this week, I had no choice, so grabbing my trusty umbrella I made my way to my local vending machine to kick my day off with a can of iced coffee.

Yeah, that's right, Boss Cafe au Lait!  Not Farmers Union, but unless someone starts importing it, I'll be sticking with my Boss.

About 2 months ago, one of my students told me about an area in Tokyo called Togoshi Ginza. He thought I might like the area after I had told him of the aspects of Japan that I really like.  He was referring to my love of small shopping streets.  Togoshi Ginza shopping street is actually 1.6km long so I knew I was going to enjoy today!

Togoshi Ginza has an interesting history.  There is actually no real mention of the area prior to 1923, so it must have been an unremarkable place until then.  In 1923 the Great Kanto Earthquake devastated Tokyo (throughout Japan's history, a major earthquake has hit the Tokyo region about every 70 years.  There has not been one since 1923 so the next one is kind of overdue.  I hope you're not reading this Mum!).  As with the massive earthquake that quite literally rocked Japan just over two years ago, most of the devastation and loss of life didn't come from the earthquake.  The standard building material in Japan at the time was wood, and fires swept through the city.  The final death toll was over 100,000.  The shopping district of Ginza was rebuilt using bricks and the leftover bricks were taken to Togoshi to build new buildings there, thus the current name Togoshi Ginza.

I jumped on the train that would take me there and got the small shiver of excitement I feel when I am about to arrive at an area that I know nothing about!  The train station is a plain small residential area station, which was a good sign.  

It is a sign that massive conglomerations have not yet touched the area and in all likelihood, the area has retained it's original vibe.  Man, was I right!!  Stepping out of the train station I was greeted by this sight.

Perfect!  Togoshi Ginza has a real laid back, pure, simple, genuine, untouched feel to it which is remarkable considering it is only two stations away from downtown Tokyo.  So I set off on my way excited to be here but feeling self-conscious every time I pulled my camera out as people were looking at me wondering what I was doing, not in a bad way though.  I got the feeling that for them, this was just home, their little community and they were wondering why someone would be taking photos of a place that they consider to be normal.  That's the sense that I got, but I loved this place.  I mention the word community.  I got a real feeling that there is a strong sense of community here.  During the course of the afternoon a I heard someone talking on a mega-phone coming closer.  I immediately thought it might be a politician approaching with one of his helpers spruiking what he can do for the community if elected.  Sure enough, that's what it was.  He also had a couple of people handing out information pamphlets.  One of them came over to me and gave me one.  In Japan, as in most places I imagine, foreigners can't vote, but he had given me one anyway!  I got the feeling that if I moved here, I would be welcomed and accepted by the local community (more on that later).

I kept on walking and took the usual shots of the local shops and restaurants.

A nice cheap eatery.

A local supermarket who had a elderly security guard standing out the front thanking everyone for shopping there.

Skewered chicken (yakitori), various crumbed, deep fried meats and fish, and stir fried noodles (yakisoba).

This one said "Roast Meat House".  I can only guess that it was some kind of Korean BBQ restaurant.

I don't really know what this place was, but the Panda looked pretty relaxed!

Small family owned fruit and veg shop.

And the best find of the day.......an okonomiyaki restaurant!!  It was, unfortunately, closed for the break between lunch and dinner, or I would have been straight inside!!

Lot's of Mums with kids walking around (it had actually stopped raining by the time I got off the train).

An example of that community feel.  I had just walked past this small real estate office (just enough space for the single staff and maybe one or two customers) when I hear the door sliding closed behind me.  The business owner had walked out of the office, not locked the door and proceeded to wander off around the corner to........well, I don't know where!  Now, how many places in the world would this happen?  I stumbled across him about three or four minutes later further down the street talking to someone on his mobile phone!

The obligatory karaoke place!  Togoshi Ginza was becoming more and more appealing!

I guess every place is not perfect.  The local (noisy) pachinko gambling parlour.....

and Macca's.  Oh well.

Bakery.......this was becoming less about the blog for me, and more about a fact finding mission on a place that I was starting to think might be a nice place for me to call home. (No, joking, it's always about the blog!)

Here is one of those car parks I was trying to explain when I visited Kichijoji a couple of weeks ago.  Here you can see the shelf system clearly.

An Italian restaurant.

And, all of a sudden, temporarily back to reality.  The shopping street continued on the other side.

Is it just me, or is Donuts and Yum Cha a strange combination?

A cheap 24 hour eatery, another tick!

Cheap ramen, another (big) tick!

A hair salon (although I have no need for anyone to cut my hair anymore!).

This shop's name was Hyakuban which means "Number one hundred".  I am hoping it wasn't saying that it was the hundredth best shop of it's type in the area, and instead was saying something about it's address.....

Small electrical store.

A fried chicken place that I would love to go back and try.  There was just too many varieties of chicken on the menu, and I wouldn't have know what I was ordering.  It also had pictures of TV shows with signatures on it, so it had obviously been on plenty of TV shows.

Immaculately arranged shoes.  Attention to detail is a high priority in Japan.

A butcher shop with all different kinds of meat, nice!

A ramen shop that becomes a bar at night.  It is interesting that the Japanese don't refer to ramen places as restaurants, rather they call them shops.  I guess that is because these are places that you eat and then leave.  In, eat and leave.  I have never seen anyone to relax and take their time over eating their ramen!

A small shrine (or temple, not sure which) that was being repaired.

Again, not sure what this was.

A happy meat shop.

And here's another one, this time with a blue ball.

Important, a Kaldi Coffee Farm shop.  These shops have a lot of imported food and spices, good for thai and indian cooking.  They also stock Tim Tams!

A curry rice restaurant that does home deliveries (another tick!).

One thing that I was noticing as I was walking along the street is that there were a lot of tiny alleyways between buildings leading off the shopping street.  They looked like they were leading to residential houses behind the shops.  Some of them, you would struggle to fit two people side-by-side.

I started to get hungry, so as I usually do on blog days, I found a ramen shop and headed inside for a feed.

Ramen making is considered an art form and great attention and care is taken with how everything is laid out and presented.  It kind of reflects the way of thinking and the way things are done here in Japan.  A movie that I like that really also showcases this is "The Ramen Girl".  I really recommend this movie, it is one of my favourites.

It was really good, and while I was in there, a cute lady walked in, and I am pretty sure she was asking the shop staff if they could use his shop for a movie they were making!

Some other interesting sights I saw during the day.  I loved this pimped up Range Rover!

I stumbled across this tiny little shrine outside a block of apartments so I had to stop and take a photo.

Suddenly I heard something moving right next to me and I swung around quickly to see this!

During my wanders I saw this elderly lady.  This is representative of the sense of community I was talking about.

She would have been in her nineties and well under 5 foot tall (but she was still walking faster than I was!).  Every so often, she would stop and start kicking at the ground.  After she had done this a couple of times, I realised what she was doing.  Every time she saw a cigarette butt on the street, she would stop and kick it off the street!  Talk about taking pride in your community.  I thought it was incredible!

I was a bit thirsty by this stage (it is starting to get warm and humid here now) so I stopped at a vending machine for a drink.  I found a nice grape flavoured drink that I had not tried before, so I bought one.  The first mouthful contained big lumps!  I looked closer at the bottle and saw the directions saying to give it a vigorous shake before drinking!

It did taste a lot better and had a whole lot less chunks after that!

This is quite a common sight around the streets of Tokyo.  This is one of Japan's biggest courier companies.  The logo is of a mother cat carrying her baby cat.  It is quite cute.

I saw this sign that was obviously there to remind dog owners of their responsibilities when walking their dogs.

So at the start of this post, I talked about how Togoshi Ginza got it's name,and the bricks that were used to build a lot of the buildings in the area.  All of the buildings I had seen were more modern ones.  Japan has quite strict regulations regarding building standards so all of the old places had been knocked down and rebuilt.  Suddenly I saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks.

I don't know for sure, but I can only guess that these were the original bricks that were used in construction of the Togoshi Ginza buildings after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.  They had obviously been used as a facade for the current building.  I can tell you, that discovery gave me goosebumps!

I really liked the feel of Togoshi Ginza, and can definitely see myself living there at some time in the future.  I checked and the train ride to work takes half the time it currently does, and I checked a lot of the real estate agencies in the area and for the same rent, I could afford to live in an apartment there........  We'll see.

I would have loved to stay and relax some more and see what nighttime brought to the vibe but it was five o'clock and I had to be back home to watch my beloved Socceroos take on Jordan in a crucial, must win World Cup qualifier.  I regrettably made my way back to the train station and headed home.  

But I have a feeling that I will return to Togoshi Ginza one day......

As I was walking back from my home station to my house, the rain started again.  Perfect timing again!

Oh, and the soccer game?  Australia won 4-0.  One more win and we are in the World Cup!

That's it for this week.  Thank you again for reading.  Take care and I'll see you again next week.

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