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Is Tokyo like New York City?

  • Yes

    Votes: 11 11.0%
  • No

    Votes: 89 89.0%
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1,557 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The last "as it used to be" neighborhood in Tokyo will finally go away. This was one of my favorite late night yakitori places, with an incredible atmosphere. I'm looking for photos of it...

Here is one shot I have, from the Keio Hotel:

Here is the sad news:

The Japan Times: June 9, 2004

Shinjuku strip faces reckoning

Omoide-yokocho will someday soon be only a memory

Staff writer

Few museums preserve the atmosphere of Tokyo's chaotic postwar era
better than the Shinjuku Nishiguchi Shotengai drinking strip, commonly
known as Omoide-yokocho (Memory Lane), at least in the minds of heavy

In the shadow of skyscrapers, department stores and other commercial
buildings, the rickety buildings occupying the 2,000-sq.-meter area on
the western side of the JR tracks preserves the atmosphere of its days
as home to a bustling black market after World War II.

But the dingy alley's days are numbered -- landowners are planning to
demolish some 80 wooden shacks to make way for a nine-story building
by October 2008.

"It has been a long-held dream for those who work here to redevelop
the district, due to safety issues stemming from the condition of the
buildings and the fact that the utilities infrastructure is half a
century old," said Kenji Murakami, the 55-year-old owner of
Sushitatsu, a sushi restaurant in the alley.

In respect for Omoide-yokocho's history and the wish of many
restaurant owners to maintain their businesses, the two basement
floors of the new building will accommodate about 30 of the roughly 80
bars and restaurants currently clutter the main alley and its back
streets, according to a preparatory group for the redevelopment
project set up by landowners.

The floors are to be laid out in a way reminiscent of the current

The yokocho developed as part of an extensive black market that sprung
up naturally along the western side of Shinjuku Station soon after
Japan's defeat in 1945.

As the black market prospered, vendors began building small barracks
one after another. These structures numbered 1,600 in their heyday
around 1950, according to the local shopkeepers' union.

The Murakami family is a living witness to the area's evolution into a
dining zone for visitors to the market. After returning from the war,
Murakami's father and his wife opened a stall offering "stew" on one
corner of the black market, using food scraps discarded by the Allied
Occupation forces.

Coinciding with the growth of the Japanese economy, the content of the
dishes served by the family improved to yakitori and then to sushi.

Around the 1970s, areas adjacent to Omoide-yokocho were hit by a
redevelopment wave, which replaced rows of shacks with department
stores and other commercial buildings.

What prevented bulldozers from also tearing down the lane was the
complexity of land ownership -- as many as 82 people own portions of
properties on and around the narrow main strip.

Although the idea of redeveloping Omoide-yokocho has surfaced time and
again, shop owners hoping to hold onto such a prime location always

What convinced the majority of land owners this time was a series of
disasters that highlighted safety problems.

A massive fire in November 1999 destroyed a third of the alley's 80
structures, burning for five hours and hopping from one wooden shack
to another via the electric wires that crisscross the strip.

Another blaze in March burned down the second floor of a bar, and a
small fire broke out in a restaurant in April. Meanwhile, a water pipe
exploded last month, Murakami added.

Another reason is that business is on the decline as regulars grow older.

While the strip is attracting a younger clientele thanks to its
nostalgic charm, they usually spend less money than their older
counterparts, Murakami said.

The restaurant owners themselves are growing old, and many have been
forced to close down due to health problems, he added.

"While we all know that the atmosphere in this place is precious, we
cannot live on nostalgia alone," Murakami said.

But not all the owners, restaurant operators and customers are happy
with the redevelopment project.

More than a dozen landowners are still resisting the project and it is
still unclear whether it can get off the ground in September 2006 as

The 61-year-old operator of a yakitori tavern said he understands the
need for redevelopment, given the safety hazards posed by the current
buildings, but he wishes he didn't have to see it in his lifetime.

"No matter what they do, it is impossible to reproduce the atmosphere
of this place inside a clean building," he said.

Customers, for their part, have mixed feelings.

Ryoichi Imai, a 49-year-old freelance journalist who has been a
regular at several drinking places along the strip for the past three
decades, said he will be sad to see it go. "There was nothing special
about this place when I first came here as a student, because every
drinking strip in Tokyo was like this," he said.

"Everything (in Tokyo) has gotten cleaner since, but some things
should be more meaningful to the human mind than convenience."

105 Posts
I can't believe they even have Okinawa! The satellite images aren't that good, but the maps are incredibly detailed!!! :D

Tears of Buddha
1,421 Posts
you mean 'Tokyo Bay Lalaport' in Funabashi?
Yup, it might be the biggest. Aside from the shopping mall, cinema complex, food theme park, it used to have a Sogo department store and an indoor all-season ski dome 'Xaws' before.

Anyway, in Tokyo area, the age of fuge shopping center like Sears has already ended.

125 Posts
Do you mean one shopping center, or a shopping area? All of the big terminals (Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro) have huge shopping areas covering several blocks, with large department stores dotted around. Then there's the underground shopping areas, like Yaesu by Tokyo and underneath Shinjuku. In the suburbs there's a few malls and outlets, like in Minami Machida or Minami Osawa. Makuhari has Costco and Carrefours.

288 Posts
thank you for the informations.
I mean shopping centers.
I know Japan is full of little stores but I was also interested to know if tokyo has "american style" big shopping centers!

Tears of Buddha
1,421 Posts
onmyoji said:
thank you for the informations.
I mean shopping centers.
I know Japan is full of little stores but I was also interested to know if tokyo has "american style" big shopping centers!
Within Tokyo's Yamanote loop line area, owing to the appreciation of land values, you cannot see American style one-story shoe box shopping malls such as Sears, Walmart or Carrefour. But as Japanese average lifestyle goes, downtown Tokyo is the exceptional region, becuase no one need to use cars in everyday life. Aside from downtown Tokyo, Japan is completely mature motorized society. When you get on a car and get out of Yamanote loop line area and into the rest of Japan, you see tons of American style shoe box shopping centers along highways such as Jusco (Asia's biggest retail business).

6,406 Posts
Rafael Vinoly 1996

Venue for conventions, concerts, fairs... it's one of the best buildings in Tokyo, I love it :kiss:

From Marunouchi bldg

Let's go in...

Square between the hall and the main pavilions

In the upper floors

Looking down

...and up


243 Posts
I'm not a big fan of these huge empty spaces... (that photo of the poor lady at the receptionist desk in the corner kind of shows what I mean).

Maybe I'm just a troglodyte who prefers caves :lol: Although the outside plazas are nice. And that clothing expo looks scary!:eek:mg:

288 Posts
I have two questions to everyone specialized in Tokyo urbanistic.

1) We know that Tokyo has an high rise limit for buildings in the bay area (because Haneda airport). So why there are not high rise buildings in other city district? There is a limit in all the city? and if so, why there is a limit in district like shinjuku or chiyoda?

2) Tokyo urbanity looks to me really caotic and complex...different downtown and different kind of developments from a distric to another. So my question is: there is a general city development project for the city all or each district is free to plan an own project?
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