Walking around Ota City, it’s easy to forget that Tokyo is a megacity. This quiet corner of the capital feels more like a collection of villages, where neighbors still stop to chat and parks and gardens fill with the sound of children at play. If you want to enjoy a slice of life in one of Tokyo’s most unique wards, why not visit a shotengai?

What is a Shotengai?

A shotengai is a retail shopping street, often beginning at or near a train station. Some shotengai have been around since the Edo Period (1603-1868), while others became popular in the early 20th century. Traditionally, shotengai were not covered, but instead had a large sign over the entrance of the street with the name of the shopping area. Shotengai are usually best explored during the day, as many shops close up before 11pm or midnight.

What shops are available in a shotengai?

A shotengai usually features family-run businesses, many of which have been handed down over the generations. Vegetable sellers, bento (prepared lunch) stands, clothing shops, dry cleaners, izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) and classic coffee shops are among the establishments most frequently found along a typical shotengai. In more recent years, fast-food chains and pachinko parlors have also moved onto these shopping streets. You can often find good bargains in a shotengai on locally made products, such as treats made from azuki beans or foods flavored with Ota’s popular seaweed.

Where can I find shotengai in Ota City?

Ota City offers a number of shotengai for visitors to explore. The Kojiya Shotengai extends for several blocks from Kojiya Station on the Keikyu Haneda Airport Line, while the Umeyashiki shotengai is just steps away from the station of the same name on the Keihin Kyuko Line. The Mihara shotengai, close to Heiwajima Station on the Keikyu Main Line, gives visitors a chance to tread the same route as travelers of old, as the street was once part of the Tokaido Road linking Kyoto and Edo (the former name for Tokyo).