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Just after WWII the Japanese economy was in shambles and there were few Japanese products floating around. The area outside of Ueno Station in Tokyo quickly became famous for its ameya, candy, that represented the American black market products that could be bought there.

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Today the street known as Ameya Yokocho, or Ameyokocho for short (not that much shorter actually), is still a crowded and bustling market area. Besides the normal clothing, bags and electronics shops dotting the area there are still traditional market stalls selling assorted Japanese foods from octopus to dried seaweed.

The whole area of Ueno is considered part of the Shitamachi (lower section of Tokyo) and was populated and frequented by the working class. While that distinction has faded with time, the liveliness of the area hasn’t and especially during the New Years Ameyokocho is packed with bargain hunters getting shopping for ingredients for the traditional New Years meal, osechi ryori.

If You Go

The area is busy and great for shopping anytime of the year. However, if you want to taste a truly unique Japanese experience visit on the 30th or 31st of December as the preparation for New Years gets underway. If you don’t like crowds this is not for you.

Arrive at Ueno Station and exit by the Shinobazu Exit on the south side of the station, cross the busy street and you’ll find Ameyoko on the right of the train tracks. Shops open and close according to their own schedules but in general are open between 10:00 and 19:00.

I’d love to know what you think of the video! And if you liked it please consider sharing it or liking it on YouTube.

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15 Responses to “Video: Guided Tour of Japan’s Crowded former Black Market District”

  1. ArtiNo Gravatar says:

    Very crowded… But then living in Mumbai I am pretty much used to it!!

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  2. AdventureRobNo Gravatar says:

    I was intending to go to Ueno just before new years but got the wrong side of the train station so went to Ginza instead. To be honest it looks the same as any other market in Tokyo. Asakusa seemed more busier to me :s
    AdventureRob´s recent [type] ..New Years Eve 2011 – Tokyo Japan – Zojoji Temple

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hey Rob, Asakusa can get really busy as well and is a great place to visit (I have a video to post from there as well). I guess what makes to the two different is the focus on what is being sold and how they go about it. Asakusa is more crafts (in general) while Ueno’s Ameyoko is about food, especially for New Years.

  3. NorbertNo Gravatar says:

    Wow! It is very crowded, but it looks like a great market experience.

  4. robinNo Gravatar says:

    Very effective showcase – the video really conveys the hustle and bustle.
    robin´s recent [type] ..Mezquita

  5. sweet! love the vérité-style to the video- yes please! put me right in the action! haven’t been to japan at all yet, but would really like to. thanks for transporting me briefly :)
    Lorna – the roamantics´s recent [type] ..Thank You and Happy New Year!

  6. AmyNo Gravatar says:

    Great post. I was in Tokyo recently and didn’t make it here – now added to my list.

  7. DavidNo Gravatar says:

    Great video Todd.
    Ameyokocho is one of the few parts of Tokyo is liked when I went (it was not as crowded as last week though) must have been crazy then.
    David´s recent [type] ..Happy New Year

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