The Togoshi Ginza Shōtengai (戸越銀座商店街) is a massive 1.6 km long shopping street that travels through Hiratsuka, Togoshi, Yutaka-chō and Nishishinagawa municipalities in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward. It’s actually three distinct shōtengai running end to end, the Shōeikai (商栄会), Chūōgai (中央街) and Ginrokukai (銀六会), though a commercial entity promotes all of them under the federated banner of Togoshi Ginza. The friendly, low-key, but always lively neighborhood shopping district would be difficult to confuse with the glitz and glamor of Tokyo’s famous Ginza district to the north, though the two places have an interesting connection. Leftover bricks from the rebuilding of Ginza after the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 were given to Togoshi, which used them to construct the shōtengai, hence Togoshi Ginza Shōtengai.
Starting at the west end, Shōeikai begins at Nakahara Kaido (also known as Prefectural Route 2) and runs to Togoshi Ginza Station on the Tōkyū Ikegami Line. This minimalist gate is the only thing marking the entrance and is easy to miss.
At first there doesn’t appear to be much of anything going on, but after rounding the corner you begin to see and hear signs of the beehive ahead.
This is still a fully public street and open to car traffic. There are two lanes, though they are very narrow and often without a center marker. In practice, with the shops spilling out into the shoulders, it’s more like a single lane road. Two cars passing in opposite directions must negotiate.
People come to the shōtengai for any number of reasons. Some are shopping, eating or just out for a stroll. It’s also a place for social interaction, so you’ll find neighbors and friends catching up on the latest news and gossip. There’s even the odd goofy looking foreigner with a camera. Whatever one’s reasons for being here, the gravity drawing everyone here is more than enough to counter a bit of cool temperature and cloudy skies.
This Lexus just sat here, patiently, for several minutes, waiting for the density of the crowd to shift enough for it to move. No one on foot felt the need to hurry out of its way. As best I could tell, no one really cared that it was there at all.
Mamachari parked in front of the super market are a good sign of bikable, walkable neighborhood.
Encountering a scene like this really hits home how different this is from where I live. Even in New York City, having an entire street flooded with people (not counting places like Times Square) is almost always a temporary and specially sanctioned event. In Japan, it’s just how things are.
This fumikiri marks the end of Shōeikai. The gates lower whenever trains stopping at Togoshi Ginza Station pass.
Everyone clears out when the bells ring.
But it’s right back to business as usual once the gates lift up.
Chūōgai announces its presence with a bit more pomp. Of the three, it’s the most dense and lively.
Chūōgai crosses and continues on the other side of Daini Keihin (National Route 1).
If you just looked straight down the road, you would more or less only see a shopping district. However, all it takes is a turn of the head to see the residential neighborhood just behind.
I noticed very few people on bicycles use any protective gear. Nor do they don iridescent Lycra bodysuits. Biking is just something you do when you want to get somewhere and it’s too far or would take too long to walk.
This small izakaya, Karaage Senmon-ten Torian, was just opening up when I passed it. I was curious about the popup-style use of bottle crates as tables and chairs, so I made a note to check again on my way back.
Come here to get your Gundam model kit fix.
Every hundred meters or so, either on or just off to the side of the shōtengai, is a market of some kind. No one living here needs to walk more than a few minutes to get fresh food. When you don’t need to load up a week’s (or more) worth of groceries at a time, life without cars comes far more naturally.
This was about when the sun decided to finally appear.
Ginrokukai is the third and most subdued of the three shōtengai.
Evidence of lifestyle in plain sight abounds. Many homes have no garage or driveway, but there is almost always a lane or small space for bicycles and scooters.
It’s also common to see bicycles parked on the sidewalk directly in front of businesses as riders stop for errands.
There’s even a miniature shrine tucked in a pocket between buildings.
Bonus Time: Ginrokukai stops right about where Yutaka-chō meets Nishishinagawa, but the journey doesn’t have to end there.
You can continue walking east along the same street, which becomes Mitsugi-dōri Shōtengai (三ツ木通り商店街). You’d eventually cross under the elevated tracks of the Tōkaidō Shinkansen.
You can also turn south and climb the hill to the Heiwa-zaka Shōtengai (平和坂商店街). This seemed more topographically interesting, so up we go.
Panasonic is doing some interesting things in the green building arena. This is the first I’ve seen a project in person.
Togoshi Ginza was the last item added to my itinerary for The Tokyo Project. I dropped a visit to Azabu Juban and Ramen Jiro in Mita to come here, just a few days before I left the US. When I met Danny Choo at New York Comic Con last fall, I asked him what besides Musashikoyama Palm was interesting nearby his home. He recommended Togoshi Ginza and added that the whole area had “tons of shōtengai all over the place.” After walking around for several hours, it was clear that if I kept going I’d probably just keep finding more. Already more than happy with all of my finds I decided to quit while I was on top. Thanks for a great suggestion, Danny!
One last stop, before we leave. Sure enough, a lively scene was already in progress at Torian. Though the karaage looked awfully good, I had ramen on the brain and decided not to stop. This izakaya appropriates about a meter of the side of the road, which works just fine on this quiet street just off the shōtengai. These parents probably don’t worry much about their kids playing in the road. It’s the cars that have to make sure they don’t drive through the “restaurant”.
This post is part of The Tokyo Project. Click here to go to the introduction and table of contents.
Additional volumes: Volume 2