Japan Thru Non-Japanese Eyes

Daniel Bloom (USA)

writer, teacher, children's book author


I love Japan's "shopping streets" (shotengai)

One of Japan's greatest contributions to the daily lifestyles of humankind is, in my opinion, the many shotengai that dot Japan's many cities and towns. Unlike America's famous shopping malls, with huge parking lots and shopping emporiums of hundreds of stores and restaurants, all inside the mall and packed with people, Japan's shopping streets, some covered and some open to the elements, create a mellow ambience and a neighborly feeling that is often absent in America.

When I lived in Higashi-Jujo in Kita Ward, Tokyo in the early 1990s, it was my habit to walk up and down the long shotengai there on my daily walks to the train station and back. I enjoyed talking to the shopkeepers, nodding to acquaitances, stopping in at a few stores and
eating some noodles at a noodle stand near the station on my way to work in Otemachi. While the Ginza is nice, I'll take a good old-fashioned shotengai anytime. I like the slower pace of walking, the friendliness of the shopkeepers and the quiet time for daydreaming and strolling.

While many foreigners might not agree with me, and most architects probably don't think so either, I believe that the shotengai is a Japanese "invention" that makes living in Japan a delight.

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