Xianxia Lu (仙霞路) is the main commercial and arterial road through Shanghai’s Japanese expatriate area in Changning District. The community is not so dense nor its boundaries concrete enough to call it an enclave, it’s more a center of gravity for Japanese and some Korean residents in the city. Mei and I went for an afternoon here in 2017 January as part of our quest to find real ramen locally. I was also interested to see if the businesses on the street reflected the preferences of the community, and if so, did the nature of public spaces and third places take on a different character compared with typical high streets in Shanghai residential neighborhoods.
On the way, we find the latest Love Live! Sunshine!! paraphernalia stocked at the gashapon stand in Hongqiao Road Station, a point-of-interest we often pass and inspect in transit. Bandai works with a local partner to install these machines around the city, mostly in metro stations. I know I’m more sensitive to this given my primary writing beat of Japan’s cities and pop culture, but I’m still surprised by the amount of licensed goods and near real-time sync with trends in Japan. We’ve even found Snow Miku gashapon here concurrent with the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri.
Ritsū calls itself a menya, but it’s more of an izakaya that has ramen on the menu. In Japan we wouldn’t bother with a place like this, but with limited options in Shanghai we’re willing to be more adventurous.
It looks good thanks to well-made toppings but, and while by no means a bad bowl, doesn’t have the punch and umami that I expect. We had an almost identical experience at a previous visit to Ishin, in a nearby part of Changning.
The tsukemen portion is huge. Arrive hungry.
We begin walking from the west end of Xianxia Lu. Though there are a few other izakaya and there is more kana script in signage than you’d normally find elsewhere, it doesn’t have a markedly different feel.
The best find of the day is Shuixia Park, which is very well-maintained, has lots of equipment for children, and is full of people even on a relatively cold day.
We work our way further east, which with its xiaochi shops, chain supermarkets, real estate agents, and low-cost clothes and home goods sellers feels decidedly China—and with laundry hanging over the street, very Shanghai.
On the return home, we spot a cupcake shop nestled at the entrance to Shuicheng Road Station and stop here to warm up.
At the time of this visit, our home’s youngest member has just rolled past his first birthday. He’s kind of a handful. Adjusting to the new order of things has put a strain on all of us and our relationships with each other, so quiet time together like this is very valuable as we try to re-balance the equation.
Kanan-chan comes home with us.
Hongqiao Road Station and Line 4 are like a mirror image of Tokyo’s Hamamatsuchō Station and Yamanote Line for us. This is our transfer point when coming back to the city via Hongqiao Airport or anywhere out on Line 10. When we see the purple striped cars of the loop line rolling into the station, we know our apartment is only a few more stops away and the sense of having returned home settles in.