End of an era for popular shopping strip in Tokyo

End of an era for popular shopping strip in Tokyo
Yu Hirota stands at his clothing stall Americaya in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.
PHOTO: The Japan News/Asia News Network

The brown, light blue and gray tin roofs of Ekimae Shokuhin Ichiba, a shopping street whose name literally means a food market in front of a station, form a patchwork in front of Shimokitazawa Station in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

This small strip has been popular for many years but is destined to disappear as early as this autumn.

"It used to be crowded with so many customers it was hard to walk along the street," said Yu Hirota, who operates the clothing shop Americaya, recalling the old days.

The 81-year-old has been selling US-made jeans and other clothing he procured from sources such as US troops stationed in Japan, as well as food and other items, for more than 60 years.

Photo: The Japan News/Asia News Network

He has decided to shut up shop for good because of the street's scheduled demolition.

"This place symbolizes the history of the development of Shimokitazawa," Hirota said. "I wanted to pass this on to young people, but ..." he said, trailing off as he stared along the dimly lit street already lined with permanently shuttered shops.

According to the Setagaya Ward Office, demolition of the shopping street began five years ago as part of a redevelopment project that involved the relocation of Shimokitazawa Station's Odakyu Line platform underground.

Before the demolition work started, 37 shops lined the street, including restaurants and variety goods stores. After the demolition is complete, a bus terminal and drop-off point are among the things planned for the area.

Photo: The Japan News/Asia News Network

"I've seen other shops demolished to clear the area, and now I feel that it's finally my turn," said Ryutaro Araki, who operates the Tecchan yakitori standing bar.

Araki, 27, has decided to relocate to another area. "The disorganized atmosphere [on this street] was great," he said.

On May 5, Tecchan's final day, customers filled the bar until dawn. Yoshifumi Watanabe was one of the regulars lamenting the closure of the bar.

"It's a valuable place that harks back to the Showa era [1926-89]. I'll miss it," the 31-year-old company employee said.

Community-organised farewell events are scheduled to take place next to the shopping street on June 17 and 18.

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