Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street
Japan is good place for bargain hunters and flea market fans. It is its own mecca of consumerism, giving you choices between large malls along Shinjuku, to unassuming bazaars along humble streets. The range of products sold in these markets is immense. Vendors can be selling anything from freshly caught seafood, dried fruits, tea leaves and snacks, to clothes, shoes, and even watches.

When you are visiting Japan, there is one street that you must visit, and surely won’t be regretting. If you love bargains and lots of knick knacks (especially some homecoming gifts for family and friends back home) you must visit this flea market, The Ameyoko Shopping Street.

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street





What Is Ameyoko?
Nestled in Taito is a street that holds a flea market called “Ameyoko Shopping Street”, or “Ameyoko” (アメ横). It is formally known as “Ameya-Yokocho” (アメヤ横丁) but goes by other names as well, such as Ameya alley. In terms of size, it is 164,227 square feet large. There are around 500 shops in this flea market.

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Visiting this street is #13 out of the 376 things to do in Taito, and seems to be a tourist favorite, as it has 2,008 reviews as of date. Its located in Ueno, Taito, in the Tokyo Prefecture, nestled on the Yamanote Line. You’ll easily find it if you’re near Ueno Station or Okachimachi Station – just look for the Yodobashi Camera Building where the flea market starts, or Komuro building, where it ends.

The name of this market is said to have two possible origins. The first one is that the word “ameya” (飴屋) means sweet shop, or candy shop, as the strip used to be lined with shops that sold sugary confectioneries. “Ame” means sweet, and “ya” means shop.

The other possible origin is from when Americans used to sell surplus knickknacks from the army here, post-World War 2. Because they occupied the sides of the road selling these items, people attributed the street them, grabbing the first three letters “Ame” from American, and “ya”, or shop.
“Yokocho”, when translated, means the alley off the main street, but can also mean the collection of different izakaya or pubs along a street. In this case, yokocho lends its first two syllables to join with Ameya’s first two syllables, forming “ameyoko”, leading to two final meanings; the alley full of sweet shops, or the alley full of American shops.


The History of Ameyoko
Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Before the market existed, the area known as Ameyoko now was once on the map as a residential area that was very cramped. Because the Tokyo Air Raid posed a high threat to this area, residents of those cramped spaces fled. They were correct to do so because, by 1945, it was indeed bombed. From the ashes of those shanties rose makeshift stalls that sold items.

It doesn’t matter which origin story you use to describe the story of how Ameyoko came to be because they are both true. It was known for selling sweet potatoes laced in a sugary or syrupy coating, starting out after the second world war had ended. Some of these sweet shops exist until now.

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

There is hearsay that goes around about how Ameyoko initially wasn’t that safe of a place to be in. Outlaws and troublemakers would come here to deal their goods, and sometimes even cause a violent scene. To slowly drive them out, a rich man named Hirokichi Kondo was begged by the Tokyo municipal government to sponsor an official market, where he would work with them to select 80 vendors who would comprise the new Kondo Market. That strategy worked, and crime eventually lessened around that area.

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street




Ameyoko Center Building
A building called “Ameyoko Center Building” was constructed in the early 80’s, right in the middle of the street, where the old JR Electric Substation was. In the basement of this building (which serves as a landmark for Ameyoko), there’s a wet market that sells fresh and raw ingredients.

For a unique perspective on the market, you can climb to the second floor to have an elevated view of Ameyoko street. The other floors of the building have an assortment of stores, such imported foodstuffs, as golf equipment, and more clothes. It’s open from 10 AM to 8 PM. The vendors here may not be able to speak English, so come prepared to learn some handy phrases.

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Of all the streets of Japan, this street is something that we don’t recommend bringing your kids for shopping as it is quite crowded, noisy, and busy. It can overload one’s senses with a number of colors, smells, sights, and sounds all packed into a little street, especially if you go during rush-hour, which is around 5 to 6 PM. Then again, that’s the perfect time to go, because you can experience it at its most intense, and see the atmosphere morph, the lights turn on, while day turns into night.

Around this time, you’ll also see vendors selling their items at a discount price, just so they can peddle their stock for that day. If you’re lucky, you can get something at half the price it’s sold in department stores. Don’t be surprised if you hear salespeople loudly shout out for you to buy their goods – it’s all a part of the ambiance of Ameyoko. 

Feel like you’re paying too much for a certain item? If it doesn’t have a set price, try bargaining.

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Why You Should Go to Ameyoko

Ameyoko is perfect to buy the following items, or do the following things:
• Fresh seafood, fruits, and vegetables
• Dried Goods
• Japanese snacks and pastries, both packed and freshly made
• Sports Clothes
• Shoes
• Go out for a beer
• Learn more about Japanese Culture

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

In Ameyoko, you’ll never go hungry with their countless food kiosks and nearby restaurant options. If you’d rather cook yourself, you can get great deals on ingredients here instead of paying for their premium prices at prestigious shopping malls. Plus, if you haven’t gone yet, it’s a lot of fun to go to a place and experience its novelty. It’s thick with history, as you can see from its clashing etymologies. Being near two stations, it’s very easily accessible, so transportation isn’t an issue.

If you get tired or find the noise, crowd, colors, and action too much, the peaceful Ueno Park is nearby, where you can recharge. All around Ameyoko are tons of other activities to do, such as visiting a temple (like the nearby Tokudaiji Temple), lovely museums and art galleries. In the spring, there are cherry blossoms all over the park that make it even more charming than it already is.

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Ameyoko may have been a hub to buy cheap imported items, but that is not so much the case anymore. Aside from the occasional product that is made outside the country, much of what they sell in this street market is locally made. Everything from the fresh fruits, DVD’s of anime, the bottles of drinks, and fish are all locally brewed, caught, grown, or created. You can even get leather jackets, dog tags, and other military equipment too.

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Specific stores to visit on your trip that reflects Japanese trends include Shimura Shoten, which sells superb chocolate, sold in bags that cost 1,000 yen for quite a large amount of chocolate. Then there’s POPGIRL, a store that sells fashionable women’s apparel at reasonable prices. Another famous store to buy your next batch to clothe yourself with is Ameyoko Outlet Bobby. Lastly, for your makeup needs, Kanariya Keshohin has you covered.

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Food to look out for while you’re in Ameyoko are the Yamatsuki Croquette, which is a combination of meat and potato that is breaded and deep-fried. You can try this out at the Niku no Ohyama. For wrapped Japanese snacks, check out Niki no Kashi. If you want to stay trim, there are delicious and fresh fruits that are stuck on skewers for you to munch on, sold by Kyakkaen. Their melons are ripe, sweet, and succulent.




How to Get to Ameyoko from Ueno Station
Find a station that serves the Yamanote line. At that point, take that line to Ueno Station. Once you’ve arrived at Ueno, go out through the Shinobazu exit. From there, use Ueno park as a guide, which you’ll have to cross a street to get to. Ameyoko should then be easy to spot, as it has a big sign written in three different kanji colored red, with a circular background for each individual kanji. There are two blue hinges that hang on top of the first and last kanji.


Hotels Near Ameyoko
In case you’ve concluded that Ameyoko is a very convenient place to stay and are looking for suitable accommodation when you travel here, here are two recommendations.

Hotel Graphy Nezu, found in 4-5-10 Ikenohata, Taito 110-0008, Tokyo Prefecture, costs 9,750 yen a night but is very highly rated by the hundreds of reviewers on TripAdvisor. It’s only 1 kilometer away from Ameyoko street, and its modern, aesthetically pleasing, and is said to be a great hotel that is worth booking, as it provides you with everything you need.

For something a little cheaper, and right by Ameyoko street itself, there’s Kinuya Honkan. Despite having a similar 4-star rating, it isn’t as famous as its more expensive comparison, Hotel Graphy Nezu, but it’s much nearer and costs about 7,543 yen a night.


Guide to Ameyoko Shopping Street

Other Flea Markets in Tokyo

Ameyoko is not the only famous street market in Japan. There are others, namely the Nishiki Market, Heiwa Dori Shopping Street, Nijo Market – in Tokyo, there’s the Nakamise Dori, Omoide Yokocho, Shimokitazawa, the famed Tsukiji market and so much more. That’s just a few of what’s available out there.

However, what sets apart Ameyoko from them is all the combined factors listed above. The atmosphere that’s filled with different personalities selling items both local and occasionally international, the heat that comes from many people congregating in one place, and the smells of different dishes being cooked, all in one accessible street.





We can compare the atmosphere and crowd of Ameyoko to Divisoria and Baclaran flea market in Manila (except the occasional pick-pocketers and snatchers that are roaming around, and products are mostly cheap imported items all available in Divisoria and Baclaran). So think twice on bringing your kids and even your pets in Ameyoko.


Have you been to Ameyoko Street? What are your recommended buys?



xoxo, Blair




30 LOVES AND COMMENTS:

  1. I wasn't aware of the Ameyoko Shopping Street. It has a sad history, but however, in the present, it looks all vibrant and colorful. Visiting this place will surely help me understand Japanese culture more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We've visited it again just few weeks ago and its was a blasting experience! I will share an update blog :D

      Delete
  2. We totally missed this on our trip to Japan, what a shame! It looks like such a cool place to shop. I'll try and remember in case we ever go back to Japan - miss that country so much!

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  3. Wow! 500 shops at a 164,227 square feet flea market?! That is huge! Might give it a try the next time I go to Japan. ^_^

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its crazy and all are affordable :D Best to buy items as gifts!

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  4. Woow this sounds like it could be overwhelming without a game plan! Thank you for sharing this and for making this giant flea market more manageable.

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    Replies
    1. Best to enjoy during afternoon, right after your lunch!

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  5. If not for the signages with Japanese characters, I would mistaken the photos and think it’s in the Philippines. Sarap magshop dyan! 😍

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's true! Buy hey another difference is that shop owners are not pushy to get customers.

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  6. Great! Sheila would love to check out Ameyoko Shopping Street for all those bargains. She loves bargains, actually. Me, I'll be there for two things....street food and model kits if they have some. Hehehe! So it's like Divisoria or Baclaran. Been there too. It's fun but a little bit unsafe due to snatchers. Is it like that in Ameyoko?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no snatchers in Ameyoko!

      All items are laid outside the shops and no store attendants, just a cashier. It is so safe and no pushy sellers.

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  7. Wow your post just introduced me to this bargain shopping street in Tokyo - Ameyoko. We are planning on visiting Japan this year and I had been reading about the destinations in Japan - had not heard about Ameyoko till now. We will be definitely be visiting Tokyo and I really appreciate the tips on shopping on this street. It's good to read that the crime has lessened in this area. I would love to visit this flea market for the great deals and also to get to experience the Japanese culture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My friend accidentally left her phone while shopping here, and after an hour we recover it!

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  8. I usually go to shopping streets of Binondo or Divisoria here at Philippines and I think I might try going there in the future too.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah I tried in Baclaran too and Divisoria, but quite off coz it isn't tidy and clean like in Ameyoko.

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  9. I'm not a big shopper, but I'd totally visit this market for the cultural experience. It looks like there's so much going on all at once, I imagine it's a bit overwhelming at first. I enjoy checking out markets and shopping centers when I travel, they tend to be good places to see how locals live and the perfect location to find good restaurants that aren't touristy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In every places I visit, I always make sure to pay a visit to their local markets. It was amazing to experience and interact with the sellers, even we don't understand each others' language, but our smiles bridges that gap.

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  10. I am sure this is heaven for shopping enthusiasts! Travel is not complete without buying keepsakes and pasalubong, of course.

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    Replies
    1. I ended up buying a new luggage just for those pasalubong from Ameyoko!

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  11. Very informayive article. Will reference this when I build my itenerary qhen I finally get a chance to visit japan next year. I love a good market place, perfect for a shopaholic like me!!

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    Replies
    1. And most of their products are affordable too. I love the street foods!

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  12. Well, I am not into shopping... but I would get some food from there. Strangely, I bring a lot of food from my trips, but not really anything else. My flat is already full of stuff... no space for anything larger than a fridge magnet :)

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    Replies
    1. I brought many gifts for friends, and took many photos for all my keepings :D

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  13. My friend also mentioned this place, and yes madami daw talaga tao, pero isa sa mga bina balik balikan nila dyan ung mga jewelry daw, kasi pwedeng installment daw

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes I saw them too! Actually we are thinking of going back to Japan soon.

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  14. Wow this is a perfect place for shopping. I'll visit this soon when I go to Japan. :) Mukhang marami-raming food ang matitikhan ko dito. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah that's true! We tried some fresh oysters and they are so huge!

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  15. Hi Blair,

    Ameyoko shopping street looks amazing for taking a glimpse of the local culture and buying some unique gift items. Though I'm curious to know whether vendors speak in English or not?

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    Replies
    1. Many vendors doesn't speak English, especially those old-age vendors (when you see a younger vendor, usually they do speak basic English). However, that language gap doesn't stop them to communicate. Most of them are truly jolly and very accommodating. I will share more in-depth shopping experience during my Japan trips!

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any partner brands/company(s), beauty & lifestyle brands, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities, unless specified.

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