Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kuramae 蔵前: Downtown Tokyo

I thought it was prime time to get off my self-indulgent corporate head-butting now that I've let off a bit of steam and come to understand these things are little more than storms in teacups in the grand scheme of things. ;)

Anyway, the other day I was in the Kuramae (蔵前) district of downtown Tokyo, conveniently packing my camera, and took some happy-snaps of what is quite an inspiring older area of this city.

It's located on the west bank of the Sumida River, near Asakusa, and apparently used to be the site of the government rice granaries in the Edo period; it's still to this day a warehouse/wholesale area and there're some amazing old buildings to be found.

The area offers up a great view of the almost-finished Tokyo Sky Tree, and it turns out that, up until 1984, this was also the home of post-war sumo - namely the Kuramae Kokugikan (蔵前国技館), a building erected by the Japan Sumo Association in 1950 since the previous, bomb-damaged Kokugikan had been taken over by occupying Allied forces after World War 2.

Tournaments were held in Kuramae until September 1984, and in January 1985 the new Ryōgoku Kokugikan was opened nearby.

Kuramae still has a few interesting toy shops, smaller shrines and temples, some signposted in English, and a number of smaller shops that look unchanged since the Edo era (1603-1867) selling everything from cleaning materials to sumo-related goods.

And then there are the exceptionally old school toy shops and the book shop pictured here (see top of page).

Kuramae Station (蔵前駅) is a subway station on the Toei Asakusa Line and the Toei Ōedo Line, in case you feel like checking it out when/if you come here.

I happen to teach at a kindergarten in Kuramae on Mondays, so on this occasion wandered around a bit post-lessons.

Ace. I loved the snakes-in-a-box (right), and the area is an absolute treat.


AstroNerdBoy said...

In the honya, it looks like the books are being used to support the upper (and I'm guessing residential) stories. *lol* It looked like they had a ton of manga magazines. I'm guessing that was a real cat in the entry way.

Looking at the toy store, I couldn't help but thing of a story in the Keroro Gunsou manga where a neighborhood toy store closed when its elderly owner quit. I also thought about what kind of old, forgotten, and possibly valuable toys might be in there (some collectable Gundam model for example).

Did you buy anything?

Japan Australia said...

Just goes to show that you can find some really interesting buildings even in downtown Tokyo if you look hard enough. Great stuff!!

Japan Australia

What's the plot, anyway? said...

Ha Ha Ha - it DOES look like the stacks of manga are holding up the roof of that book shop!! ;)
Yeah, I love finding these places within ultramodern Tokyo. And I need to explore those toy stores more closely, but I think stuff might fall on me!