An assistant of a cooked food shop is packing steamed glutinous rice with wild plants.
Born from a postwar black market:
Sometime around 1970, the small shops and restaurants in front of the north exit of Ogikubo station were demolished and a shopping building was constructed in their place. The tiny shops and restaurants, however, didn't disappear but found themselves in the new building. The shopping building, Ogikubo Town Seven, is therefore somewhat different from usual department stores or super markets and retains the individuality of shops. In particular, its basement food market keeps the atmosphere of its origin, the black market in the post-war period.

Asian markets and Western markets:
I like shopping in markets, especially open-air markets. The decision to study in a small German town, Tuebingen, was in actuality stimulated by beautiful photos of the
market place in front of the city house. Albeit cities and towns are very quiet in most part of Europe, markets are always crowded and lively and I feel at home there.

Compared to Europe, markets in Asia are more crowded, loud, dirty and chaotic, and at least for me more interesting and exciting. Whenever I go to local markets in Japan, I strengthen my conviction that Japan in fact is essentially a part of the Asian civilization, though we try to keep the surface of our cities and towns clean and tidy.

noisy, dirty and confused environment:
The places which most Japanese feel at home are neither quiet, clean nor tidy, but noisy, dirty and confused.

It is a well known fact that when Tsukuba Science City was still at the beginning of its construction, the rate of suicide was very high among the people who newly moved in and worked there. It was understood that the reason was the lack of crowded and dirty areas with izakaya and other amusement facilities where people could relax and feel human.

Japanese are, I think, like cockroaches, and cannot live in a clean environment ;-p. I suspect whether we share this cockroach-type-nature with other Asians. Whenever I visit marketplaces in Asia, I feel something common with our shopping areas and can feel very relaxed.

We used to have local shopping areas everywhere. They are now being replaced by modern super markets and huge department stores. In a sense, Japan becomes more and more Americanized and less and less comfortable place for the people with native Asian sensibility. But, as I mentioned above, the new and clean places cannot attract people, unless they are equipped with facilities with Asian confusion (^^).

As time went by, Tsukuba Science City also acquired areas with izakaya, rahmen (Chinese soup noodle) houses and other vulgar shops, and few people are now enchanted by the idea to commit suicide.
My favorite Town Seven:
This Town Seven is a piece of traditional shopping area in the modern residential area.

My family likes steamed glutinous rice sold at a store in Town Seven (See the photo above). It's really delicious and I cannot find any comparable glutinous rice in any gorgeous department house. In order to buy this and some other things (special photo albums of an old design, which are not sold in usual shops !), I spent US 7$ for highway fee and 20 minutes for driving to come here !!!

There are many other shops which sell home made cooked food, such as tempura, deep fried cutlet, yakitori, oden, grilled eel, pickles and other daily dishes. Two fish mongers are competing each other and this competition makes their offer always fresh and priceworthy. We have, in addition, a shop specialized in shell fish. There are also at least 4 vegetable shops and one fruits shop. A bakery and a beans shop. Several butchers and one specialized in chicken. Of course there are shops which sell sweets (Japanese sweets using red bean pasts)

What is good is that the most shops are run by individuals. They are neither chain stores, nor shops owned by big capital. As for cooked foods, the shop owners themselves cook what they sell.

    (From top to bottom, left to right)
  1. Fishmonger
  2. Tsukudani (vegetable and fish boiled down in soy sauce) shop
  3. Pickles store Entrance of the Town Seven Fruits shop vegetable store

  1. The yellow pickles in the center of the photo are radish (dried and pickled)
  2. The fruits shop sells chestnut (brown in foreground), pear (green, left) and orange (yellow)

Ogikubo Town Seven is only an example. You can find such local shopping areas (usually shopping streets) everywhere in Tokyo, not only in shitamachi (down town) but also in sophisticated residential districts. The shopping area is a lively evidence that we cannot easily lose our traditional or Asian character in spite of the superficial modernization.