“Ameyoko” is short for the full name of the market which is officially named: “Ameya Yokocho”.
Ameyoko is a busy market street along the Yamanote Line tracks between Okachimachi and Ueno Stations. The name “Ameyoko” derives from a few different things, as well as also being the short form for “Ameya Yokocho” (Candy shop alley), as candies were traditionally sold there.
Ages ago, American soldiers used to come here, sell their bits n pieces for a little extra income on the side.
One of the origins of the name “Ameya” is said to come from “AMEricans” and “YA” meaning “shop” = American shop.
Alternatively, “Ame” also stands for “America”, because a lot of American products used to be illegally available there when the street was made the site of a black market in the years following World War Two.
Mentioned above, another explanation of the original meaning of “Ameya” is said to have come from the many shops in the market that sold candy. “Ame” meaning “Candy” and “ya” meaning “shop”.
The whole area around Ameyoko is filled with side streets which branch off all over the place. Somewhere in here you can be sure to find a place that makes dog tags of your idols or girl/boyfriends, buy some frozen pigs ears to bring back for your nephew. And if you know where to look you’ll be able to stock up on old military equipment, so you can get treated like a criminal while going through security checks at the airport.
Of course, other then browsing through looking for cheap bargains, the next best thing one can do here is to also stop by the many stalls selling hot n cold street food to keep you going.
While there are many foreigners who visit Ameyoko, many locals come here to do their daily shopping which makes this place special in that you also get to see a slice of life in Japan.
Previously however, Ameyoko wasn’t so much about “A slice of life” – rather a “Slice of somebody’s knife.” As mentioned above; after the Second World War, Ameyoko became a black market where a load of rogue soldiers and gangsters would come to hold business “meetings”, “trade” and occasionally pull off a “hit-n-run.
At the time, the authorities turned to a wealthy business man called Hirokichi Kondo and asked for his help to buy up 80 stores in the Ameyoko area with the intention of driving out the trouble makers. Once nobody’s land, now registered and eventually over time, Ameyoko became a safer place to be.
Today, various products such as clothes, bags, cosmetics, fresh fish, dried food and spices are sold along Ameyoko. Opening hours and closing days depend on individual stores, but stores typically open around 10am and close around 7pm. Many stores remain closed on selected Wednesdays.
As I spend most of my time abroad, and even when I’m back, I live on the other side of the city, so the last time I actually visited Ameyoko was a couple of years ago – should probably visit more often as the food is great and there is lots and lots to see.
This maze of streets next to the railway tracks between Ueno and Okachimachi stations comprises two markets: the covered Ueno Centre Mall and open-air Ameyoko itself. The mall sells an array of souvenirs and clothes, while the 500 stalls of jam-packed Ameyoko – one of Tokyo’s greatest street markets – specialize in fresh food, especially seafood.
Ameyoko is in the Ueno area, which is also close to Akihabara and Asakusa. If you are in the area then I recommend dropping by – but don’t go too late; Preferably before 7pm or many stalls will be closed by then.
Conveniently located between JR Okachimachi and Ueno station is Ameyoko – the outdoor shopping market filled with many dealers wheeling and dealing discounts on all kinds of stuff like, snacks, candy, fruit, seafood and other edibles.
The Ameyoko shopping street runs from Ueno to Okachimachi Station along the train tracks of the JR Yamanote Line and JR Keihin-Tohoku Line. It can also be accessed in a short walk from Ueno-Okachimachi Station, along the Oedo Subway Line.
Ameyoko has always been and is still continuing to remain lively with vendors
calling shouting out to potential customers. Apart from grocers, there are countless shops that carry shoes, clothing, and even international knick-knacks; perfect for souvenirs. The liveliest time of the year is late December, when the alley attracts such a large crowd of New Year’s shoppers that it’s virtually impossible to move.
While much of Tokyo is turning into new landscapes of luxury malls and glossy condominiums, there are few places left that still offer the sights and smells of Asia. One of the few places remaining is the Ameyoko market at Ueno. With its noisy jumble of stalls and stacks of merchandise, its distinctively voiced barkers and hawkers, and its teeming crowds of international shoppers.
Thai and Filipina girls buying shoes, Russian sailors eating doner kebabs from the friendly Iranian take-out, and Saitama schoolgirls buying brand knockoffs – Ameyoko is like the modern rendition of the ageless Silk Road. Just for a moment, you could believe you were in any one of the numerous night bazaars all over Asia.
On weekends, it seems the entire Asian population of Tokyo converges on Ameyoko center market, the supermarket for all your exotic Asian needs. Specialist shops, butchers and fishmongers offer a wide range of Asian favorites that may be difficult to find at your local supermarket.
There are at least five large fishmongers in the area, selling everything from skinned frogs to live turtles. The range of queer-looking shellfish and colorful fish is an eye-opener for all. The butchers have whole pig’s heads, small chickens for soup, and all those bits of the cow that’re beloved by Korean restaurants: a pile of Achilles tendons, slices of lung (which apparently goes very good with miso), trays of tripe and stomach lining to add volume to spicy stews.
The supermarket area has several shops specializing in spices, herbs and condiments from most of Asia. One store offers a range of chili powders in different strengths and colors – from the mild-looking orange Sri Lankan pepper to the fiery red Korean variation. Big packs of cumin seeds, cinnamon sticks, and all your curry spice needs go for a song. There are also fresh herbs in plastic bags which can be purchased at a fraction of the usual supermarket prices. For the lazy gourmet, there are pre-prepared sauce packs for Malaysian beef rendang, Thai chicken with basil, Indian dhal curry, and even tasty instant packs from Bombay and Bangkok.
So, if you’re in Japan but unable to get a feel of what Asia is really like; come here to get the taste and smell of Asia without getting on a another plane.
All you have to do is to simply take the JR to Ueno Ameyoko Center Market. On weekends you won’t hear much Japanese amongst the babble of Tagalog (Philippines), Thai, Bahasa (Indonesian), Hindi, Cantonese (Hong Kong), Farsi (Iran), and the voice of many other nations who drop by for the unique atmosphere.
And also, please do ‘Like’ my official Facebook Fan Page above!
~Thanks for reading!!~