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  • Shona McCarthy

The Longest Shotengai: Kyobashi


Throughout many of Japan’s cities, one common yet unusual feature are Shotengai. They are not dissimilar to Melbourne’s arcades. But Shotengai differ in that they tend to be much larger and more diverse in terms of content. Some aspects might be like a shopping centre, with fast-food franchises. Others are similar to a market, with small independent retailers and a mixture of fresh foods and small homewares.

(The signt I saw when I finally reached the end of the Shotengai. Note that even beyond this, there are interesting streets to walk through. 2019.)

In fact, it’s difficult if not impossible for me to adequately describe the content of a Shotengai since there is so much variance and variety in their content. Fashion stores, convenience stores, dentists, green grocers, Hair salons, karaoke, bargain shops, restaurants, bicycle repairs, chemists, sake stores. There's something mysterious and surprising about finding all of these various and sundry along this snaking way, but in slightly anachronistic and distinctly Japanese style.

(Some images of the Shotengai in Kyobashi. Note the way the architecture even varies from area to area. 2019.)

They can sprawl like small villages, the way they do in Kyobashi. Or they can be glitzy and well manicured, as the ones in Osaka. The most expansive I had seen may have been the long lines of Shotengai in Kyobashi. When you exit the station on the west side, you will find the first of the Shotengai. Follow it town till you hit a crossroads. You’ll see a life size replica of the Face of Truth. Go down the tunnel just right of it. This shotengai goes on further than your eye can see, four times over.

(More images of the Kyobashi Shotengai. I wish I could better capture how it felt to walk through there; how beautifully quiet and enigmatic, and yet so very fun.2019.)

The shotengai of Kyobashi are more quiet and sedate than those of Osaka's Namba and Dotombori regions. But this means that your experience is more local. I was searching specifically for a nice, new hanten at an affordable, which I was able to find there. But there are so many other types of store along that path. The sensation of discovering the length of this line of Shotengai was what touched me. There was something surreal about approaching what I thought would be the end over and over, only to find the shotengai sprawling further ahead of me.

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