F The sweet shop alley - jeepneyjinggoy

The sweet shop alley

IT WAS a quick stop at the JR Ueno Station. Angelo, my host, just wanted me to check out a couple of popular sights in the area after visiting the Tokyo Tower (that brought back memories of Paris, tres magnifique!).

Ueno, a district in the Taito Ward of Tokyo, is part of the historical Shitamachi (which literally translates to "low city", a geographic and class identification) district of Japan where the working class lived (the aristocrats and rich merchants lived in Yamanote or “towards the mountain”). Popular in the area are the Ueno Station, Ueno Park, museums including the Tokyo National Museum, temples like the Bentendo Temple dedicated to goddess Benzaiten, Shinto shrine of Toshogu and the Ameyayokocho.

We found ourselves in the popular area closest to the station, the Ameyayokocho. Popularly known as Ameyoko, the area is a street market district that evolved out of an open-air black market where American goods were sold just after World War II. The name “Ameya” must have been coined from “AMEricans” and “YA” for shop, ergo American shop.

But literally, “Ameyayokocho” translates to “candy store alley” (“ame” is sweets and “ya” means shop) as candies were traditionally sold in the area. I’d like to be the local dentist.

Wherever the name came from, the area is indeed busy. Commerce is booming with the locals flocking the area for its food and wares, clothes, bags, cosmetics, fresh fish, dried food and spices. The image of Divisoria came to mind but Ameyoko is way, way cleaner and safer.

Angelo toured me around the market where everything is pretty much available (kinky stuff included). But what made this stop more exciting was the aroma of Japanese food cooking from the various food stalls. It made my stomach growl. I was hungry.

Dining in the area would have to happen sometime on the next trip. His mom is whipping a special dinner for this tourist visiting for the first time in the Gunma Prefecture. That was more enticing.

So we walked back to the station. I still have the luggage we stuffed at the train station to deal with. Getting it in was laborious; it would be the same taking it out.

See you soon Ameyoko. This visit may have been short, but I assure you it was sweet.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on November 10, 2011.