東京 - Tokyo

tokyo 1東京の下町

"Shita-Machi" - Area von tradesmen and artisans

During your stay in Tokyo or at the reading guide books, the area calling "Shita-Machi" may attract your attention. Literally one can translate "downtown", but I doubt a bit if it has the same definition. In many Japanese towns living area used to be devided quite clearly. Shita-Machi was the area of petty bourgeoisie, tradesmen and artisans. The life of many non-wealthy people was hard living in attached house without private space, hat to share water or washrooms. In other words, through those hard lives some very particular cultures were developed in Tokyo.

As far as the Japanese craftwork is concerned you find most of the shops or companies in so called Shita-Machi area, Ueno, Asakusa, Nippori, Nihonbashi. Nowadays you hardly find the old good times of Shita-Machi, but good to know the background culture when you visit your trades partner. It must help to understand their mentality.

Discover the Japanese Arts and Crafts

logo aoyamasquare伝統工芸青山スクエア  -  Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square

In Japan there are 222 traditional articles of Japanese arts and crafts, which are qualified by Japanese ministry of economic and trade. In this japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square, about 130 articles are displayed and sold. So, it may be good idea to check it out at first, followed by the shopping malls where general people visit.

>>> Aoyama Square (伝統工芸青山スクエア)

Tokyo, roughly estimated 12 million people in the daytime and 8 million in the night.
It is almost impossible to fullfil all of your plan during the short stay. If your focus is Japanese Arts and Crafts, as buyer or enthusiast, but don't have any idea where to start, it may be good idea to stroll the following areas on the first day.

  • Museum, Showroom, Institute
  • Department Stores, Shopping Malls
  • Shopping streets
  • Wholesale merchants areas

Galleries & Showrooms

>> 下町風俗資料館 - Shita-Machi Museum  (English)
>> 墨田江戸切子館 - Sumida Edo Kiriko House (Japanese)
>> 東京都伝統工芸師会 - Tokyo Association of Traditional Craftsmen (Japanese)
>> すみだまち処 - Sumida Machi-Dokoro  (Japanese)

Shopping Center

Department stores may be good place to have a quick overview about general products sold in Japan.
In Tokyo there are 18 big department stores. Maybe you will be surprised or disappointed to see how small amount of products are genuine Japanese ones, but this is valuable information as well.
Especially the basement of department store could be a paradise for enthusiast of Japanese cooking. There you find not only various prepared foods or Bentos, but also many typical local ingredients from all over Japan.
At the exit of many subway stations you get often directly to the underground stairs of department stores (Depa-Chika: Department Basement).
Besides if you don't know where to go for the lunch, you will find various small restaurants with quite a good quality in the department store, usually on top floors.

asakusa 1

Rikusha for tourists


Asakusa and the surroundings are typical historical areas in Tokyo, where petty citizens lived together closely since Edo-Ära. In fact petty bourgeois von Shita-Machi, partly naive, but warmhearted, partly conservative and umcompromising but proud of having human feeling, still remains, however experience very rare due to the hustle and bustle in the metropolitan like Tokyo. Even so, there is no doubt, that Asakusa is one of the most popular area for people who like to get a touch of feeling of good old time of Japan.

In Asakusa and its neighborhood (Ueno, Nippori, Kanda, Akihabara) you find wholesale traders area according to the type (Textile, Books, handicraft, Kitchen Utensile, etc.). I don't know exactly the reason why, but many wholesaler have started selling in retail. 
However most of them accept neither creditcard nor checks. "Cash Only", close in early time, no business on sunday and public holidays following the old custom?  
Tips: In Japan sunday/publick holidays are most visited shopping days

問屋街 - Wholesaler Area


shibori 1The most popular Japanese traditional texitiles are the one, which are used for Kimono. So for the people who is interested in Kimono and accessories, it is fast an obligation, to check the textile wholesalers area out. At the same time, handmade woven and dyed goods using Japanese traditional tools and techniques are used by many world fashion designers. So, for the one who is looking for the unique high quality textiles, the wholesalers areas in Tokyo is nice to visit as well. 
Tokyo may be the best place where you can search and buy the most valuable Japanese textiles, however there are no Japanese traditional textile manufacturers or dyeing indsutries. Quality of the water in Tokyo is so bad, not only to drink but also do dye the textile.

日暮里繊維街 - Nippori Textile Street

>> Stores on the map - Nippori Textile Street
>> Shop List - Nippori Textile Street

東神田繊維問屋街 - Higashi-Kanda

There are more than 60 speciality stores of clothes and textiles. All stores are only for whole sale traders. However, twice in a year, from the end May till begining June and from the end November till beginning December, a big family bazzar opened for all people takes place, in which dem Einzelverkauf möglich ist.

浅草橋問屋街 - Asakusa-Bashi

A wholesaler street, about 1.2 km, spezialised of dolls, toys, and accessories. Shops of Zakka also in retail sale.

日本橋横山町・馬喰町問屋街 - Nihonbashi-Shin-Michi

One of the biggest wholesaler street in Japan, however most of the shops are of ready wear clothes and accessoires. Only a small ratio for typical Japanese goods, but you still find some good Kimono shops.

Kitchen utensil

かっぱ橋道具街 -  Kappa-Bashi-Dougu (Handicraft) Street

kappa 1Along the 800 Meter long street, you find about 170 speciality stores of kitchen facilities and utensiles with more than 100 years history. Japan-knife and tablewares, Japanese laquerware (Urushi), or extremely good made imitation of dishes and foods, which you often see in the window of Japanese restaurants. 
If you are engaged with Japanese restaurants business, of course this "Kappa-Bashi-Dougu-Gai" must be the first place to go.

河童,かっぱ(Kappa)is inhabit the ponds and rivers of Japan according to the legend.
Name of the Kappa-Maki (rolled Sushi with cucumber) is based on here as well.
橋(Hashi, Bashi)means bridge.
道具(Dougu)means tools.

Matsugaya 3-18-2, Taito-Ku
Tokyo 111-0036

>>> Kappa-Bashi-Dougu-Gai  (English site)

築地場外市場 - Tsukiji Outer Market

tsukiji fishmarket 1Tsukiji Wholesale Fish Market has been changed in the last 20-30 years, in a way a big development, on the other hand huge problems disturbing the fish trade because of the tourists. Anyway due to the expansion of fish trade the move was planned for a long time ago. Now it is decided to move the Tsukiji Wholesale Fish Market to "Toyosu", about one Km away from Tsukiji, in November 2016.

Tsukiji Outer Market, opened for everybody, especially retailors or distributors of kitchen utensiles, remains as it used to be. About 60 Fisch stores in Tsukiji Wholesale Fish Market, carry on their business, not only in a new market but also in the Tsukiji Outer Market as well. 
Tsukiji Outer Market became one of the most popular touristic spots in Tokyo where you can eat very fresh sea foods. 
On the Tsukiji Outer Markt you find special stores of Tuna (6), fish und sea foods (24), fish products (49), fresh fish-, sea foods- and sushi-Restaurants (99), Meat- and vegetable stores (30), groceries of dried foods like dried-bonito, seaweed-nori, green tea (36), processed foods (73), other stores (23). 

Special stores for professional cooks, restaurant owners as well as hobby cooks; kitchen utensil (7), Knives (6), tablewares (5) and packing materials (6).

Info: Business hours of most stores start at 6 o'clock in the morning and close early in the afternoon.
On the website you find the detailed information and map. 
Tips: It is planned to make a neu structure with the move of the Tsukiji Fish Market.

Tsukiji 5-2-1, Chuo-Ku 
Tokyo 104-0045

>>> Tsukiji Fish Market (English)

tokyo marugotonippon 1

Marugoto Nippon by www.marugotonippon.com

Experience Japanese local life and speciality

まるごとにっぽん  -  Marugoto Nippon

"Marugoto Nippon" is a new shopping mall, which was opened im last december. "Marugoto" means, something like "all together in one".
The Mall has a new concept, in which all tenants must offer Japanese handmade goods which are produced as specialities in Japanese regions.
That is why, for foreigners, particulally for you, which are engaged with Japanese arts and crafts, "Marugoto Nippon" shall be an interesting spot to visit. Especially you can see many Japanese products with regional atmosphere in one place.

>> https://marugotonippon.com

>> Flyer mit Karte (Englisch)

Business hours: 10:00 - 20:00/21:00/23:00 (each floor or shop has slightly different business hours)

2-6-7 Asakusa, Taito-Ku, Tokyo 111-0032

Paradise for citizens with craftmanship

東急ハンズ  -  Tokyu Hands

tokyu hands 2Tokyu Hands, founded 40 years ago, is the first big store in Japan, where normal citizen can buy tools and materials which are usually provided for the professional handworkers only through wholesalers. Sales person is entitled what kind of products to buy in for his division, so that he has to research and learn about the products. At the same time their motivation and friendliness raise. Moreover the sales person can explain from the viewpoint of general citizen.
You find no machines or big tools. You may be surprised of the variation of the tools which in fact same purpose, or you wonder why such a variation is needed.
Besides if you are interested in stationary "Made in Japan", Tokyu Hands is also a right place to check out.

In Tokyo there are 9 Tokyu Hands stores. Just ask the nearest Tokyu Hands. Or go to Shibuya, Shinjuku or Ikebukuro.

>>> Tokyu Hands (Englisch)

Stroll and watch small citizens needs

上野アメ横  -  Ueno Ame-Yoko

ameyoko 1Ame-Yoko is in fact casulal shopping street of local residents. I have some friends who are born and grew up in Asakusa area, and they often mention about the shopping in "Ame-Yoko". This popular local shopping street, not only remained even after the american shopping style "department store" conquered all over Tokyo, but became more well known. Even if you needs nothing, you can check out what kind of things are popular among the casual people.

6-10-7 Ueno, Taito-Ku
Tokyo 110-0005

Stroll and look for your souveniors

仲見世通り - Nakamise

asakusa 2Asakusa and "Kaminari-Mon" (Thunder-Gate) are one of the most popular spots for Tokyo-Visitors. Along the way to the Asakusa-Tempel, about 250 Meter, on Nakamise-Street you see about 90 small shops selling souvenior and other small old Japanese goods.

1-36-3 Asakusa, Taito-Ku
Tokyo 111-0032

Other popular malls

谷中銀座商店街 - Yanaka-Ginza
3-13-1 Yanaka, Taito-Ku
Tokyo 110-0001

アンティークモール銀座 - Antique Mall Ginza
In antique mall which has some 200 tenants, you find not only Japanese, but also European- and Asian Antique and old products in one building.

1-13-1 Ginza, Chuo-Ku
Tokyo 104-0061
>>> Antique Mall Ginza