[Tokyo] Looking around fairs and antique markets
A walker's guide to Monzen-nakacho, an historic downtown area of Tokyo
As the name indicates, Monzen-nakacho flourished as a town at the front gates of Tomioka Hachiman Shrine and Fukagawa Fudo-do Temple. When you walk through the town, you will see lots of old established shops selling sweets, Fukagawa rice dishes, eel dishes, and so on that cater to worshippers coming to these shrines and temples and still look like they did back in the days when Tokyo was called Edo.
In contrast to the old historic downtown atmosphere, you will also see many people of the younger generation coming here in recent years. In old buildings that once housed makers of amazaké (a sweet fermented rice drink) you will find cafés specializing in good coffee, and on the benches along these streets of shops you will see members of the older generation who came to pray at the shrines and temples and are now taking a break. And next to them are parents and their kids who live in this town and are enjoying a day out.
Let's take a walk through this town where the young and elderly mingle in the midst of the old and new.
[Tokyo] Looking around fairs and antique markets
If you're visiting Monzen-nakacho, you should aim to come on a day when there's a fair or antique market being held! Walking around town will be a lot more interesting then.
The Fukagawa Fair is held each month on the 1st, 15th, and 28th, and you'll see lines of stalls in the shopping area of Eitai-doori street and along the road leading to the temple. It's fun to walk around the various stalls selling standard foods like Takoyaki (grilled octopus balls) and more unusual things like Tsukemono (Japanese pickles).
Antique markets are held every Sunday except the 3rd Sunday of the month. There are more than 100 stalls on the grounds of Tomioka Hachiman Shrine selling antiques and works of art. It's fun even to just look at them all. Time passes very quickly this way. Offer a prayer at the shrine and spend some time walking around the stalls and shops. Some pleasant discoveries are sure to be waiting for you there.
Tomioka Hachiman Shrine, Antique Market
The joy of coming across unexpected treasures
Each time, more than 100 stalls set up shop at the Tomioka Hachiman Shrine antique market. You'll find ceramics, old tools, kimono, metal items, retro toys and art, and much much more, not only Japanese but from around the world. One of the fascinations of antique markets is uncovering a treasure that's perfect for you. In the clutter of so many items on display, you'll find things like old printed items and conch shells that you don't normally see. "Wow!" you might excitedly say to yourself when you come across such discoveries.
Many old tools such as hammers (tonkachi) and tweezers (pinset) are on sale.
Kutani ware, said to have been made in the Meiji period (late 19th century). The detailed patterns are beautiful.
An old wooden mold for making sweets and other products. Many people use these items for interior decoration or as an accessory box.
There's an impression that many shop attendants enjoy talking. If you have a question about an item, they love to tell you what you want to know.
Antique Market (Kotto-ichi)
1-20-3 Tomioka, Koto-ku
Days held: Every Sunday (except the 3rd Sunday each month)
* Not held on the 15th or 28th.
Fukagawa Fair (Fukugawa Ennichi)
Lots of stalls that impart the old downtown ambience
This Antique Fair is held mainly along the road leading to Fukagawa Fudo-do Temple. A feature of this fair is that there are few standard stalls often seen at festivals, such as cotton candy or yakisoba (fried noodles) but lots of stalls featuring sweets, dried snacks, and even fortune-telling stalls, that convey the old, somewhat subdued downtown atmosphere. Some long-established stalls have passed down 2-3 generations and attract many familiar regular customers. You'll be able to leisurely enjoy this antique fair in the nostalgic ambience of the good ol' days.
This stall that sells apricot sweets along the road leading to the temple has been here for more than 60 years. Apricots, strawberries, grapes, chocolates and others are carefully wrapped in steamed starch syrup (mizu-amé).
Baby costella made by Nakazawa Confectionery always attracts a long line of customers. "Our castella stays fresh for 3 days, you know!" are the proud words of the lady who runs the stall. It's all freshly baked, and it stays soft and fresh even when chilled. Baby castella (12) from ¥300.
This stall selling vegetables pickled in miso (miso-zuke) has been family-run for 3 generations. They sell pickled eggplant, cucumber, ginger, burdock root (gobo), and many others.
Held along Eitai-doori Street, the road leading to Fukagawa Fudo-do Temple, and the area around Tomioka Hachiman Shrine.
Days held: 1st, 15th, and 28th of each month