A “shotengai (商店街 [しょうてんがい])” is a street lined with various kinds of stores, which can be translated as “shopping street” or “shopping district” in English. Those shopping streets are places where you can wander around and enjoy the fusion of nostalgic stores with a long history and new stores set up by young owners. Although the number of shopping streets is decreasing due to the rise of large commercial facilities, they are once again attracting attention with new ideas and innovations.
The Longest Shotengai
The longest shotengai is located in Osaka, called “Tenjinbashi-suji Shotengai”. The 2.6 km (1.61 miles) long shopping street is lined with about 600 stores. Popular stores are the ones that sell handy foods such as takoyaki (“octopus balls”) and taiyaki (“fish-shaped pancakes with red beans paste”). We will introduce the details in our feature article on Osaka’s shopping streets.
Address: 6-4, Tenjinbashi, Kita, Osaka, Osaka
The Oldest Shotengai
The oldest shotengai is in Tokyo, called “Nakamise Shotengai”, leading to Sensoji Temple.
The origins of this shotengai date back to around 1700, when the temple neighbors were ordered to keep the temple clean, and in return were given the right to open stores in the temple. At that time, there were many teahouses and souvenir shops for worshippers to take a break, and nowadays, there are many stores selling snacks such as fried manju (steamed buns), dango (sweet dumplings) and many other souvenir stores for overseas tourists.
Recommended Shotengai in Tokyo to stroll
Yanaka Ginza Shotengai
Yanaka Ginza Shotengai is located near JR Nippori Station, and is a shopping street with an old Japanese townscape. The staircase at the end of the shopping street is called “Yuyake Dan Dan (literal translation: Sunset Staircase),” and if you go up the stairs at sunset and look back, you can see the whole shopping street in a brilliant orange hue.
Another feature of this shopping street is cats! If you are a cat lover, this is the meow-st go place! you can find not only real cats, but also cat ornaments everywhere. Can you spot them all?
Address: 3-13-1, Yanaka, Taito, Tokyo
☞Point & Speak
(Yanaka Ginza Shotengai ni ikitai desu.)
“I’d like to go to Yanaka Ginza Shotengai.”
Yanaka Shippoya (やなか しっぽや)
This store sells baked doughnuts with the shape of a cat’s tail as a motif. There are about a dozen flavors available and some flavors are only available for a limited time. I like the ones with chocolate cream inside. My son loves it too. They are baked doughnuts, not fried ones, so they are healthy and recommended for small children.
¥: 100 – 170 yen for baked doughnuts (as of May 2021)
Opening hours: 10:00 – 19:00
Address: 3-11-12, Yanaka, Taito, Tokyo
Niku No Suzuki (肉のすずき)
Have you ever tried korokke (“croquette”) or menchikatsu (“minced meat cutlet”)? Korokke (“croquette”) is mashed potatoes (or something mixed with them) balls that are deep-fried with breadcrumbs. Menchikatsu (“minced meat cutlet”) is minced meat made into balls, coated with breadcrumbs, and deep-fried. Both are crispy and delicious when freshly fried, so definitely enjoy them in front of the store.
Niku No Suzuki, established in 1933, is very popular because they use pieces of Wagyu beef in them. Especially, menchikatsu (“minced meat cutlet”) is sometimes sold out around 3 pm, so don’t be late if you would love to taste it!
¥: 110 – 250 yen for korokke and menchikatsu (as of May 2021)
Opening hours: 11:00 – 18:00
Address: 3-15-5, Nishinippori, Arakawa, Tokyo
Yanesen (Tourist Information & Culture Center)
Visit YANESEN for more recommendations. It is not just an information center, but also offers Japanese cultural experiences such as Tea Ceremony, Calligraphy, and home cooking. You need to make a reservation in advance for the experience, so check out their website before you go.
Togoshi Ginza Shotengai
Togoshiginza Shotengai is the longest shopping street in Tokyo, with a total length of 1.3 km. The shopping street stretches across the Tokyu Ikegami Line Togoshiginza Station.
This shotengai is well known for delicious delicatessens, where the locals come to buy meals for dinner. You’ll forget you are walking 1.3 km long because you can shop at some cute local shops, and take a break with delicious snacks. Remember to wear comfortable shoes, though!
☞Point & Speak
(Togoshi Ginza Shotengai ni ikitai desu.)
“I’d like to go to Togoshi Ginza Shotengai.”
Nakatsu Karaage Kei (中津からあげ渓)
I really would like everyone to try Japanese fried chickens! How juicy and crispy they are! Try them at this place when you wander around the streets. The fried chicken here is said to be one of the best in Japan.
¥: 200 – 270 yen for 100g (2-3 pieces of fried chicken) (as of May 2021)
Opening hours: 11:00 – 21:00
Closed: Open 365 days
Address: 2-18-5, Hiratsuka, Shinagawa, Tokyo
Solco is a store that sells salt, mainly from different regions of Japan. Each one has a different saltiness, bitterness, and sweetness, and you can choose the salt that best suits the type of food and your taste. You can taste the salt in the store, so discover your favorite one. This is also popular as a souvenir.
*Note that the tasting procedure has now changed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Please ask the store staff for confirmation.
TOGOSHIGINZA Information Center
If you have any problems or questions, you can go to this information center. In addition to English, Chinese and Korean are also available. They also have restrooms and a diaper changing area.
Website: TOGOSHIGINZA Information Center
Opening hours: 10:00～17:45 (Saturday / Sunday / Holidays 12:00～17:00)
Closed : Summer Holidays, Togoshi Hachiman Shrine Autumn Festival on 2nd Saturday / Sunday of September, New Year Holidays
Address: 1-15-16, Togoshi, Shinagawa, Tokyo
Watch Out for Cars!
Many shotengai have a “Hokousha Tengoku (歩行者天国)” (literal translation: pedestrians’ paradise), a time when the streets are closed to cars. However, especially on weekdays, cars and trucks often pass by. Please be careful when you are eating and taking photos.
Garbage Disposal Rules
As many of you probably know, not many public trash cans are installed in Japan. If there are no trash cans nearby, please ask the store where you bought your food to throw away the trash or take it back to your hotel/house.
(Kore wo sutete kure masuka?)
“Can you please throw this away?”
Bring coins with you
Keep in mind that many small stores, especially those located in Shotengai, do not accept credit card payment. Many of the items in Shotengai are inexpensive, costing less than 1,000 yen, so it is a good idea to have some coins ready.
*In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), various facilities we introduce in our articles may change their operating days or hours.