Friday 5 December 2014

The Mother of all shopping arcades - Musashi Koyama shotengai (shopping street)

Shopping is an integral part of life in any country and what Japan seems to do so well are the nice shopping streets and arcades in areas such as Koenji, Togoshi Ginza and Yanaka Ginza.  I have a friend, Keiko, who lives near an area near Musashi Koyama who had invited me to come and check out the shopping street there so, after finding a day that we both had off, I went to Musashi Koyama to see Keiko and the shopping street.

Prior to the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake the area that is now Musashi Koyama was an agricultural area which produced a lot of vegetables.  Housing had started developing around 1921 and after the earthquake, this process was accelerated as people started looking for new places to live after central Tokyo was destroyed by the quake and the ensuing fires that swept through the city.  As a result of more residents moving to the area, shops began developing into a mall to satisfy the new residents needs.  The area was destroyed toward the end of WWII but the mall area was rebuilt again.  In 1956 the current covered shopping street was finished and became the first shopping arcade in Japan.  It now stretches for about 1km and contains every kind of shop that the local Musashi Koyama resident might need!

The days in Japan are starting to get colder and winter approaches and today was a slightly wet autumn day as I started out for Musashi Koyama.

Musashi Koyama is located on the Meguro Line, two stops away from Meguro and before too long I had arrived.  I surfaced from underground and quickly found Keiko.  Having a quick look around, I was impressed with some of the small alleys I could see.

These would be explored a little later, but for now, hungry stomachs were making noises so we set off into the shopping arcade in search for lunch!

We soon arrived at our lunchtime destination.

Lunch today was to be shabu shabu.  Shabu shabu is amazingly delicious.  It is thinly sliced pieces of meat (usually beef and pork) and vegetables that are cooked in boiling water or stock then dipped in various dipping sauces before being devoured!  Most shabu shabu places do all-you-can-eat deals and depending on the restaurant, they can be quite reasonable.  Ours today was.  For about 1,800 yen or about $18 (Australian) we got all-you-can-eat meat, vegetables, noodles and soft drinks!

The restaurant had a nice comfortable vibe, the staff were friendly and service was quick.  

So this is what shabu shabu looks like.  All of this

gets cooked in this pot and dipped into the little bowls of dipping sauce.

I didn't take any photos of the cooked product because I was too busy eating.  It had been about 13 years since I last had shabu shabu and it was as delicious as I remembered it being!

We went outside and headed to the nearest end of the shopping street and started walking along it's length looking at all of the shops.  As I said before, a place like the shopping street has been set up to provide for an entire district so the variety of shops is huge.

There were restaurants of all different kinds.  Yakitori, the perfect stop, snack and go food!

Steak, chicken and pork cooked on a sizzling hot plate,


ramen (of course!),

a restaurant with various Japanese dishes such as unagi (freshwater eel) and tonkatsu (crumbed deep fried pork cutlet) which was established in 1925,

and Chinese.

Off to the side were other alleys with more food shops like okonomiyaki.

There were also food shops of every kind imaginable.  This one was featuring different food from the island of Shikoku,

lots of pre-cooked food such as croquettes and deep-fried pork cutlets,

a variety of different sweets and snacks,

various tofu products,


and tea.

Then there were shops of all varieties too,

and Christmas trees!

It seemed like everyone was getting into the Christmas mood

except this guy.....

This place was seriously huge!

Finally arriving outside at the other end, we headed over to where the small alleys were.  At the entrance of where the alleys began there was a take-away and standing yakitori shop.

Unfortunately at the time we were there, there was not much action, but I could imagine the area really coming alive after working hours!

Heading over to the other side of the shopping street and in the direction of a nearby shrine we passed an old fishmonger who was slicing up some fresh fish for a customer,

a little neighbourhood izakaya,

and a couple of small neighbourhood tofu makers.

Keiko explained that these small tofu makers are a dying breed as more and more, tofu is being made on large scales in factories.

A little further on we came across another sight that was old, but probably not even as old as the tofu shops!

Soon enough we arrived at the shrine.  This one is called Sanya Hachiman Shrine and dates back to 1673.  I always like to visit a temple or shrine in the areas that I go to.  They are such peaceful places.

These two made for a strange couple!

There was still some nice autumn colour to the leaves in the garden.

I had been meaning to visit Mushashi Koyama for a long time now, ever since Keiko had told me about it.  I was happy to have finally gone there.  As I said before, it is a shopping complex unlike those we have in Australia and it was a very interesting place to visit especially for that reason.

On my way home I stopped off at the Meguro River to see a special nighttime illumination.  These are very popular at this time of year in Japan.  Unfortunately my camera was not able to catch the full beauty of what I saw.  It was incredible!

That's it for another post.  Thanks to Keiko for showing me around Musashi Koyama, I really enjoyed it and I hope you enjoyed reading too.  As always, feel free to leave a comment below.  See you next time!

Update - November 13 2015:  If you are reading this blog post, this is an unfortunate footnote that I have to add.  The small alleys that I talked about in this blog with all of the izakaya and small bars is being shut down and will soon disappear as part of a re-develpment of the area.  It is unfortunate, but places like this are starting to disappear as more and more areas are being re-developed before the 2020 Olympics arrive.  I will still leave the sentences and photos about the area in this post as I still want people to be able to see how the area used to be and to provide a contrast to what it will become.