The first time I went to Tokyo, I stayed for over a week. I couldn’t get enough of the city. By the end of the first few days, though, I had started to run out of tourist attractions to visit. I got in touch with my friend, a native Tokyoite, and asked what I should do next. After thinking for a moment, he confidently answered “Ameyoko”.
The origin of the name Ameyoko is disputed. Some say it’s a contraction of the words Ameya Yokocho, or Candy Alley, for the sweets shops that lined the street after World War II, when sugar was a rare commodity. Others say that the area was originally known as Amerika Yokocho, America Street. After the war, there was a surplus of army goods, so Ameyoko became the place to go to get American boots, clothes, and belts. Whichever etymology is accurate, the modern Ameyoko is a bustling market street where you can get anything from cheap sushi to expensive puppies.
If you need to have dinner while stretching your budget as far as it will go, Ameyoko is the place to for you. While some stalls sell giant crabs and other wholesale seafood, nearby stands take advantage of the easy availability of fish to sell it right back to you as sushi. You can get a tuna-don for as low as 500 yen. It won’t be quite as tasty as the early morning Tsukiji Market fare, but for one coin who can complain? If you’ve already had your fill of fish and are in more of a Middle Eastern mood, there are a number of doner kebab stands selling the famous Turkish cuisine for the same 500 yen. For dessert, stop at a fruit stand for a 100 yen slice of cool, juicy pineapple on a skewer.
In the evenings, people pack the streets, lending it almost a festival atmosphere. Walk around, do some shopping, have a bite to eat, and take it all in. There are lots of stands with goods for sale running the gamut from the mundane to the absurd. One can pick up a new belt or watch, or even a puppy. Last time I went there was a shop with dozens of fuzzy newborn fluff balls rolling around in their display boxes. Signs warned “look, don’t touch”, but when confronted with such a concentrated dose of cuteness it was easy to forget. Unfortunately, the astronomically high prices kept the puppies firmly in the window shopping range.
For a change of pace from shopping, you can pop into one of the arcades for a game of Mario Kart, the addictive drumming game Taiko no Tatsujin, or try your luck at a UFO crane game.
Whether you’re in the mood for shopping, food, video games, or people watching, Ameyoko has something for everyone. Head to Ueno Station and walk south.