By Brian Kowalczyk - OCT 31，2018
Yokohamabashi Shopping District was established about seventy years ago mainly as a place for people working the port to shop for everyday products and services at affordable rates. As the majority of dockworkers, crewmen and their families were not the wealthiest residents, the shopping district excelled at offering great bargains. Though the economy of the city and area has changed drastically, the shōtengai still carries the reputation of offering great deals.
Shōtengai chairman Kazushige Takahashi recounts his childhood memories of the main shopping street. “When I was a kid, it was really bustling. Walking through the shōtengai without bumping into anyone was a challenge.” About fifty years ago the shopping street was given a roof turning it into the covered arcade it is now. Many of the shops within have a long history with ownership being passed down through family generations.
In recent years the surrounding neighborhood has begun to take on a more international look. As word spread of the positive points of the area, expats from a variety of nations have moved in. Takahashi says, “Now when I walk the main street, I can hear people speaking Chinese, Korean, English, Tagalog and other foreign languages. Nearby Minami Yoshida Elementary School now has more than 60% non-Japanese students from countries all over the world.” He says that international residents like the shōtengai because of the bargain prices and the more traditional aspect is more appealing than going to a supermarket. There are now many Chinese and Korean specialty stores, so the appeal extends beyond just Japanese products and cuisine. As the neighborhood moves into the future becoming more multicultural, the shōtengai organization is working to promote an all-inclusive atmosphere.
One way to strengthen the bonds between local residents is to have festivals in which all are invited to participate. Three to four times a year (predominantly June to September), a beer garden is set up inside the arcade for the enjoyment of all. Beer is sold at ¥300/cup and local shops offer otsumami (simple snacks to go with alcohol) with the hopes that customers will visit their shops afterwards.
Yokohama native Katsura Utamaru, a famous rakugo comedian and host of the long-running TV show "Shōten", had strong ties to the Yokohamabashi Shopping District. When he passed away in July of 2018, the neighborhood built a small memorial in his honor. The initial two-day event was attended by almost 5,000 people. After it appeared on TV, around 10,000 people visited over the span of a week. To continue to honor his memory, plans are in the works to host some type of yearly event and possibly erect a memorial hall to celebrate the comedian and act as a community center to be shared by all.
To make shopping a little more fun, twice a year (winter and summer) there is a drawing for prizes called Garagara no Chūsenkai. Customers that spend ¥500 at any of the shops in the shōtengai and earn a ticket. If you accumulate four tickets, you earn a chance to win a prize. Some of the best include YOKOHAMA DeNA BAYSTARS (the city’s pro baseball team) replica uniforms and other BAYSTARS goods such as monogrammed balls and dolls.
There is a yearly Halloween parade for kids of nursery school age. Now in its fourth year, nearly 500 children participate. They receive help from their teachers to fashion homemade costumes at school. They then get to roam the arcade visiting participating shops for Halloween treats.
Whether you visit to participate in one of the events, to try some traditional food, or to hunt for bargains, Yokohamabashi Shopping District will give a true feel of life in Japan. Easily accessed from Bandōbashi Station on the municipal subway, it’s less than ten minutes from Yokohama Station.
Shopping & Dining Recommendations
Events & Festivals
One Friday in June, July and August
"Ennichi" (Street Beer Festival)
July and December
2min. walk from "Bandobashi Station", 6 min. walk from "Isezakichojamachi Station", 15 min. walk from "Kannai Station": Yokohama Municipal Subway Blue Line