One of the multitudes of things that Japan is known for is its markets. Regardless of where you visit when in Japan, you’re bound to stumble across a market or two during your stay. Japanese markets serve similar functions to markets around the world, but they stand out in many other ways.
The Ameyoko Open Air Market actually runs along the Yamanote train line and is sandwiched between two train stations.
This is a market worth seeking out, as you can find a variety of things to take home, as well as enjoy during your stay. If you’re visiting Tokyo, you’ll be able to find the Ameyoko Market in Ueno.
The History Of Ameyoko Market
Before Ameyoko Open Air Market existed, the area was residential. However, the area and its residences were destroyed during World War II because of the bombing.
When the area was safe to rebuild, instead of creating new homes, many small shops started opening up in the area.
For some time, Ameyoko was known as a black market. After World War II, many items were sold here that were secured through interactions with American soldiers.
Black markets in Japan would often sell necessities that were very difficult to find due to limited resources.
Some of these markets would price things much higher than they were worth, while others had to be somewhat secretive about their business.
The market also became popular for its variety of sweets, which were not easy to find after World War II since sugar was such an unattainable resource at the time.
Even though sugar is now abundantly easy to find, there is still an assortment of sweet shops standing in the market today.
How Ameyoko Market Has Evolved Over Time
Ameyoko is actually a shortened form of the Japanese phrase ameya yokocho, which roughly translates to candy store alley. This namesake was derived from the original market, which sold candy and Japanese sweets.
Shortly after the Second World War, some American products were sold in the area as well at various stalls.
You can still see some remaining homages to the black market days of Ameyoko through their military surplus stores.
You might enjoy seeking out a sukajan, a silk bomber jacket that was popular in Japan during the black market days.
Today, the market is a colorful combination of shops and stalls selling almost anything you could imagine.
What Is An Open Air Market?
An open-air market is similar to what other countries might call a farmer’s market or a public market square.
While the name might make it seem like it only sells food, open-air markets can offer so many other types of goods outside of food.
In typical open-air markets, at least some of the displays are outdoors to entice customers to explore, as it gives them a preview of what they can expect to find inside the shop.
Shopping At Ameyoko Open Air Market
Shopping is very affordable at the Ameyoko Market, but that doesn’t mean you are not getting anything of value.
You can find some truly one-of-a-kind wares at the market, as well as items synonymous with Japanese culture. If you’re someone who loves fashion but doesn’t like paying a lot of money to stay in style, you’ll be in heaven at this market.
While you’re hard-pressed to find anything other than bargain prices here, you are able to try and haggle and negotiate prices here.
Unless you know what you’re doing, you’re better off just supporting the businesses; you’re not likely to overpay here in any regard.
Ameyoko Market Food
You will find a plethora of shops that sell a variety of food. If you are staying somewhere that you can cook, you’ll want to grab fresh fish from the market.
You are also able to find options that are more shelf-stable, so you can bring them home so long as your home country allows food items to be brought from other countries.
When you work up an appetite shopping all day, you can choose from various options for eateries. You’ll find many casual izakayas, which are Japanese-style pubs where you can enjoy a refreshing drink and some incredibly delicious food.
You’ll also be able to find many quick fixes throughout at various street food stalls that sell food you can eat on the go. Lots of this food is served in smaller portions to make it portable or is served on a stick.
The Recommended Stops At The Market
While you could spend hours roaming through each shop at the market, you’ll want to take note of a few that tend to be quite popular with both tourists and locals.
These stores can help you find everything from what you’ll need during your trip to what you want to bring home to remember your trip and even souvenirs.
Japan has some delectable sweets and treats, so stopping at Niki no Kashi is a must. You will be positively overwhelmed in the best way by how many snacks and sweets you can find here, and they all come at a very affordable price point. You can also find everyday staples and international foods here.
Japan is known for having some of the best drugstores and convenience stores, and Matsumoto Kiyoshi helps to uphold this reputation.
There are two floors, one of which is dedicated to toiletries and cosmetics, and the other is dedicated to medicine, daily needs, and snacks.
If you’re a bargain shopper, you’re also going to want to stop at Takeya. This is a famous discount store in the Ameyoko Market, and you won’t be able to miss it as the outside is purple.
There are multiple floors in Takeya, and you can find anything from cosmetics, clothes, jewelry, food, and so much more.
Tatakiuri is the fascinating practice of bang-selling, which operates similar to an auction. The reason it’s referred to as bang-selling is that vendors who participate in this style of selling will usually bang on something to signify a sale.
When at Ameyoko, you should seek out a chocolate shop located towards the Ueno end of the market, where they sell using the tatakiuri method. The vendor will fill a bag with a bunch of chocolate and will sell the bag for 1000 yen.
Fruit On A Stick
If you’re at the market on a hot day, you’ll want to stop for some fruit on a stick. This is one of the delicious and hydrating snacks that the market is known for.
You can find a variety of fruits sold on a stick, making it easy to eat something healthy while walking around without making a big mess.
When To Visit
Ameyoko Market Official Website
The Ameyoko Market is open the majority of the week, though many of the stalls and shops will be closed on Wednesdays. Additionally, individual businesses might make the decision to be closed on other days.
Most of the businesses in the market will open around 10:00 a.m. and will remain open until around 8:00 p.m.
In order to get to the market, you can take the JR Yamanote train and get off at either the Ueno station or the Okachimachi station.