As with the preceding walk through the Musashikoyama Palm Shōtengai, this return visit to the Togoshi Ginza Shōtengai (戸越銀座商店街) was an unplanned addition to this volume of The Tokyo Project. Because they’re so close to each other, I’ve always put Palm and Togoshi Ginza together as a pair. The balmy summer evening has brought everyone out into the streets, creating a bubbling soup of activity and perfect conditions for people watching.
A Japanese language search wasn’t able to draw out much more about the history of the location than I had found in 2012 (Togoshi Ginza Shotengai) and 2013 (Togoshi Ginza Shotengai, Session 2), which is surprising for its size and age. I did come across several mentions among different sources confirming that, at 1.3 kilometers, it is indeed the longest shōtengai in Tokyo. Togoshi Ginza also claims to be the first shōtengai to incorporate ‘Ginza’ into its name.
Like most people, from Musashikoyama we walk clear around the large pedestrian footbridge (横断歩道橋 ōdan hodōkyō) and up to the nearby crosswalk with traffic signal. When I first came to Japan, I thought these things were wonderful. Here was specialized infrastructure, just for me, the pedestrian! But as I learned more about urban planning and design, and conditions specific to Japan, the sheen quickly wore off. For one, many are the result of excess public works funds that haven’t found a use in more comprehensive improvements. This wouldn’t be the worst thing they could go to if the footbridges actually represented a good solution for accessibility. In reality, they are emblematic of a planning approach that prioritizes vehicle traffic flow over pedestrian mobility. As a 20-something I could slog up and down these without too much thought. I still don’t have much difficulty, and admittedly they can be great vantage points from which to take a photograph, but my three year old is a bit daunted by all of the climbing. Most elderly residents avoid them entirely. Footbridges are not the best we can do.
The summer sky is gorgeous, though.
Subsequent to the time these photos were taken (2014 August), Togoshi Ginza completed what had been a multi-year effort to reduce or eliminate above ground power lines to improve the appearance of the shōtengai. These images are probably the last record I’ll be able to get with the tangles of wires, which are already much less cluttered than I’ve seen in archive images from the past 20 years. I actually prefer the messy look, and there is an entire subculture of power line enthusiasts that would seek out such places. Japan is a great place for infrastructure fans.
The sun is going down, but Togoshi Ginza is lighting up.
Takeaway rice-based snacks and sit-down sushi
Every storefront, of which there are about 400 along the total length, is an opportunity for a discovery.
Unfortunately, the charm necklace we had just found in Musashikoyama seems to have had a bad clasp and fell off at some point on our walk over. We’re now looking for something to replace it.
Drink break at the Famima. Summertime means mugi-cha.
Second-hand clothes and accessories
Though Togoshi Ginza is busy along its entire length, the densest activity pivots around Togoshi-Ginza Station on the Tōkyū Ikegami Line. The grade level railroad crossing divides the Togoshi Ginza Shōeikai Shōtengai (戸越銀座商栄会商店街) and Togoshi Ginza Shōtengai (戸越銀座商店街)—referred to as the Chūōgai (中央街)—segments of the district. From here, it’s just one stop north to Gotanda Station on the JR Yamanote Line.
Kushi-katsu (deep-fried skewers) and doteyaki (simmered beef tendon)
The ground slopes down sharply from the fumikiri into Chūōgai, so standing at the top you can get a great view of the street full of people.
Almost all vendors are still open at this hour, though sellers with perishables like fish have sold most of their stock and are beginning to pack up for the evening.
Tea and nori
Coffee and dry foodstuffs
Chinese food restaurant Hyakuban always breaks with the norm of plastic food models, placing a table with samples of the day’s special dishes out front.
Second-hand goods shop
Film photography printing and gallery space
We are closing in on a possible lost necklace replacement.
After some help from the owner we end up finding several things, one of which he gives us for free.
A little girl on her father’s shoulders has the best view of all of us.
Our mini-crisis has thankfully been resolved.
Karaage shop Torian spills out into the street, as usual.
There’s a minor accident involving a delivery scooter brushing a young boy. No one is hurt, but concerned parties take the matter seriously and call the police to look into it. That driver probably didn’t have a fun night.
Plastic Gundam models
Produce grocer with display chewing on the street
Snackers hold court around Ebisu’s always inviting shopfront.
Whatever this thing is supposed to be, it has the youngest shoppers’ undivided attention.
Let’s attack it.
We turn back just before we get to the boundary between Chūōgai and the Togoshi Ginza Ginroku Shōtengai (戸越銀座銀六商店街), as we have a final stop to make elsewhere, but what an end to a great walk on a great day.
This post is part of The Tokyo Project, Volume 3. Click here to go to the introduction and table of contents.