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Asakusa Underground Shopping Street, Japan’s oldest underground shopping center

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People walk in the Asakusa underground shopping street in Taito Ward, Tokyo.

Directly connected to Asakusa Metro Station, the Asakusa Underground Shopping Street was opened in 1955 and is the oldest existing underground shopping center in the country.

As soon as you step inside, you see bare pipes running along the ceiling and signs that remind you of the past. You may feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the Showa era (1926-1989).

The underground shopping center connects the station with the Shinnakamise shopping street and has been inviting people to take a detour on the way to Sensoji Temple for years.

Currently there are about 15 stores of various types, including a tavern, a general merchandise store, a coupon store and a barber shop. It’s fun to just walk around and look at them.

Many of the shops are unique, and you can enjoy an izakaya where you can get heavily drunk for ¥1,000, or a barbershop where a cut costs ¥800.


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The Yomiuri Shimbun
The shopping center is directly connected to a station corridor.

“There have always been many restaurants offering food that is cheap, tasty and quickly available. Because this place is close to the station, some businessmen relax here in their spare time,” said Shoji Hori, 87, owner of the Asakusa PR Center, a printing company that has been operating here for almost four decades. “The old-fashioned atmosphere and the unchanged landscape remain here.”

In recent years, many young people and foreign tourists visited the shopping street to take photos of the retro landscape. To further attract such visitors, new shops have been opened in the arcade, such as restaurants with Asian cuisine and a bar where employees dress up as ninjas.


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The Yomiuri Shimbun
Old-fashioned posters hang on a door.

One such store is Souse, a second-hand clothing store that mainly sells T-shirts. Opened last year, the interior is modern and stylish.

“This location is interesting and it struck something in my mind. There’s a strong Showa-era atmosphere here, but when I opened the shop I felt a strange attack. I felt the nostalgia of the underground mall,” said owner Shun Yamaguchi.

In the seventy years since it opened, the underground shopping center has seen many people come and go. It will continue to bring a fresh breeze while retaining its good properties.


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The Yomiuri Shimbun
Above the stairs to the underground shopping street hangs a sign with the shopping center’s mole mascot.

I wonder what kind of landscape I will see next time. As I left the underground shopping center, I felt excited again.

***


as map
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Asakusa underground shopping street

Address: 1-1-12 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo

Access: Directly connected to Asakusa Station Exit 6 on the Ginza Line

Remark: In addition to restaurants that have been in business since the Showa era, there are also Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, giving the area a multinational flavor.

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