History of Ameya Yokocho
Unlike Tokyo, Ameya Yokocho or Ameyoko is a popular stop for bargains. This makes for plenty of lively interactions not typical of most retail stores in Japan.
Ameyoko started as a black market after World War II. It marketed many things that people who worked for the Occupation forces would get from the soldiers.
The origin of the name “Ameyoko” is unclear. Some people say that it came from the Japanese word “ame”, which translates to “candy”, while others say it is just short for “American”. To this day, there are still a lot of sweets sold in the area.
What is Tatakiuri
A chocolate shop near the Ueno end of Ameyoko is famous for doing “tatakiuri”. Tatakiuri literally means bang-selling. Vendors will often hit something, like boxes, with a stick, as they sell their goods. The seller adds boxes of chocolates into a bag and will continue to do so until it is full. No matter how many he adds, the bag sells for 1,000 yen.
10% off of 20% off of 30%
If it sounds confusing, it’s because it is. Several stores sell items at multiple discounts. One sign would say 30% off, then another would say a special sale is happening. Finally, a hawker would say that another special discount is given today. This then often results to mountains of stuff sold to up to 60 or 70% off their original prices. Sporting goods are often sold this way. The brands are all real, not knock-offs, but they may be two or three seasons past. Still, it’s a true bargain.
Look for the fruit vendors
Many fruit vendors sell fruit on a stick in the area. Fruits that are in season and ripe are available, but melon, strawberries, and pineapples are commonly being sold.
There is so much more to see and do. If you are visiting friends, crab, salmon roe, and other seafood are always appreciated as gifts. Matsutake mushrooms are also a way to go. These are sold for about half the price of most shops and a third of the price at department stores.
Best time to visit Ameya Yokocho
Ameyoko is usually crowded with people, especially on weekends. It is best to be there on a weekday morning, right before the shops open. It is also especially busy at the end of the year as people are preparing for the New Year’s celebration.
- Try some of Tokyo’s “tastiest and cheapest seafood”
- Find better priced military goods at Nakata
- Look for stores that sell “Japan-emblazoned, embroidered, silk bomber jackets”
- Foot traffic in late December is almost standstill
- A number of stores sell “one kind of item only”
- Haggle for fruits, they are hugely discounted by the end of the day
Opening and closing hours and days may differ from store to store, but they are typically open from 10 am to 8 pm. There are stores that do not open on selected Wednesdays.
How to get there
This area is accessible by train.
Ameya Yokocho is conveniently found right on the circular JR Yamanote Line. It runs right next to and underneath the tracks between Ueno and Okachimachi stations.
You can start on either end. Get off at either Ueno Station or Okachimachi Station. Walk parallel to the elevated JR Yamanote Line tracks. Ameya Yokocho is actually on the inner side of the tracks, but the market has expanded underneath the tracks, in an arcade, and across the other side.
4-11 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo-to