商店街

Koenji has a mix of styles from different decades

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高円寺のルックという商店街には、違う時代からのいろいろな建物とサインのスタイルがあります。

On Koenji’s Look shopping street, the mix of building styles and signage is fun.

A woman walks her pet turtle in the rain, at a Koenji shopping street

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長いあいだ、東京に住んでいるので、もうおどろくことはないと思いました。けれども、高円寺のルックという商店街で雨の日に、亀と一緒に散歩している人に会いました。亀は足を前方と後ろに動かして、頭は見回しています。

亀は濡れているのがきらいだと言いました。だから、オーナーはタオルで亀をふいてあげます。こんな都市の動物と人間の友情はすばらしいと思います。

Sometimes, I think nothing surprises me any more in Tokyo. And then I see this lovely woman walking down Koenji’s Look shopping street with her pet turtle. The turtle looks like he is swimming in air, legs reaching forward and back and eyes taking in the surroundings.

The human guardian explains that she is carrying this towel under her umbrella to wipe off the turtle. Apparently, her turtle does not like to get wet! Thanks to both of them for adding some cheer to a rainy day.

Second floor, add-on garden on Koenji shopping street

二階に昭和時代の建物に作られた、このきれいな庭が大好きです。ルックという高円寺の商店街で。

I’ve long admired this second floor, add-on garden in the Look shopping street that connects Shin Koenji and Koenji stations. It’s such a simple and bold addition to an older building.

Winter citrus brightens cold days in Tokyo

東京に来たとき、柑橘類の木を見て驚きました。冬に果物が熟成しますが、寒すぎるのではないかと思いました。最初、このハッサクは食べれないと東京の人はみんな言いました。去年カナダ人の友だちが、閉鎖された公立学校の庭でハッサクを収穫して、商店街の人たちと一緒にマーマレードを作りました。装飾にも食用にもなります。

Freezing temperatures and icy streets are keeping me indoors. But I am always amazed at how much still grows in Tokyo’s winter months. The most spectacular and surprising is this large citrus called “hassaku.”

For years I believed general comments about how the fruit is too sour to eat. Then I participated last year in Edoble’s hassaku marmalade-making. This tree can be seen everywhere in Tokyo, so it must be well suited. I like how it’s both decorative and edible!

Lush second floor garden on Shin Koenji shopping street

高円寺ルックという商店街の、フランス風の家庭用品の店は二階に庭を作っています。植木鉢は長くて深いので、植物の種類は多いです。このきれいな庭は、すでにあるものをさらに良く見せています。この商店街は古いものと新しいものを組み合わせることに成功しています。

On my favorite Koenji shopping street called “Look,” a shop selling feminine French homewares just built a lush second floor garden. By attaching two long and deep planters, they have transformed this older building with new life. I love the variety of plants, and the way the garden adds onto what is already there.

The shop is called Malto and they are online, too.

Sunset over Shimokitazawa commercial street

最近、よくこの下北沢の商店街に行きます。日暮れはとてもきれいです。自転車で行けて、おいしいコーヒーのお店があります。東京の商店街には、いろいろ小さな店があります。商店街のデザインは散歩したり、ぶらぶらしたりすることがしやすいようになっています。古いけれど、商店街のストリートデザインはヨーロッパとアメリカで人気が出てきています。どうして都庁は車を支持して、商店街を支持しないのでしょう?

Recently I have been spending more time on this Shimokitazawa shoutengai, or commercial strip full of very small businesses. This one is northwest of the station, and somewhat hard to find. What’s great is its combination of shops run by old timers alongside imported hipster clothes, one of Tokyo’s best coffee shops called Bear Pond that roasts their own beans, a hookah bar, and at least ten hair salons.

There are thousands of these shopping streets in Tokyo, near transit stations and along routes that connect homes, workplaces, schools, and leisure areas. It’s strange that Tokyo Metropolitan Government is still so focused on cars and their movement across the city at the expense of walking and biking and other forms of common space usage. There is little government recognition or support for the idea that these relics of past decades are in fact some of Tokyo’s most forward-looking urban public spaces.

Lively pedestrian zones are common in Europe, and becoming more so in many cities in the United States. By not segregating cars, pedestrians, and bicycles, the street pace slows down to pedestrian speed while still allowing passage for delivery trucks and cars. The way the street is painted makes it appear even more narrow, providing further social cues about speed and usage.

Many of Tokyo’s shoutengai are suffering as consumers shift towards shopping at big box stores and driving as a primary form of transportation. The city government is truly looking backwards when it promotes automobile usage and fails to recognize the value of these vernacular public spaces that support human interaction and the environment.