When most people hear Akihabara (秋葉原) they would immediately think of electronic shops. One railway stop to its north, Okachimachi (御徒町) is known for its wholesale stores selling jewelry and ornaments. Since 2010, between the two stations emerged a new hotspot dedicated to everything that is made by the artisan hands. Situated under the railway viaduct, this hidden gem offers an alternative shopping scene for anyone who admires the skillful hands of devoted Japanese craftsmen. Merchandises range from umbrellas, shoes, housewares, jewelry, leather products, naturally dyed clothing, artworks, souvenirs, etc. The name “2k540” is a reference in railway’s terms, which refers to the 2.54km distance from Tokyo Station. “Aki-Oka” refers to Akihabara and Okachimachi, indicating the craft market is situated between the two stations.
At the underside of a railway viaduct, the entrance to the “market street” 2k540 expresses a community friendly and low-key atmosphere.
The logo of “2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan” is painted like a road mark on the asphalt floor.
The pre-existing structure and the shop buildings on the market street of 2k540 are painted in white, revealing a coherent environment.
One of the shops at 2k540 manufactures clothing with dyes from the natural world, such as sakura flowers.
Natural light spills in from the gap above the stores and the artificial uplights at the column bases create a poetic atmosphere as if walking in the nave of a cathedral.
While some shops are housed in minimal white boxes, some are actually set up in the main space in the colonnade.
We stayed longer than what expected strolling around 2k540.
At the end of the market street stands a larger store called Japan Department Store, a shop that sells household items and souvenirs from different areas across Japan.
Like many big cities around the world, creative industries have given different urban spaces, such as old factory buildings and underside of railway viaducts, a second life to thrive.
Once arrived on Taquile, we were greeted at the dock by the father of the home-stay family. We had difficulties understanding each other completely, but we could still communicate with simple facial expressions and hand gestures. Our host suggested us to take our time to walk uphill to the village centre, while he would go ahead of us to prepare our lunch at a village restaurant. Since we weren’t totally acclimatized to the 3,800m altitude, we took our time and slowly walked uphill from the dock to the village centre. The journey took less than half an hour. We walked along through terraced farmland ascending from the dock to the top of the hill. The view was gorgeous along the way, with terraced farmlands everywhere along the slope of the island.
Soon we reached the plaza at the village centre, where we found our host. He led us to a local restaurant and ordered each of us a dish of local trout. After lunch, our host guided us to his home where we would stay the night. We were introduced to the host’s family. Then we dropped off our bags and followed our host to the island’s elementary school where some sort of festival activity was going on. Standing behind rows of local spectators, we watched groups of Taquile students engaged in some kind of acting and dancing performance. Despite we couldn’t understand Quechua, we enjoyed the funny acting of the innocent Taquile children that made everyone laughed.
After the performance at Taquile’s school, our host took us to the highest spot on Taquile, where the ruins of an ancient buildings still remained. After the visit, we wandered around Taquile on our own until the sun was set. We followed the main path into the village. Along the way, we were greeted by the villagers, most of them with a smiley face. In late afternoon, we walked pass the main village square once again, where the pink Artisan Centre stood. Taquile is renowned for their textile art. In 2005, the UNESCO declared the textile art of Taquile as one of the world’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The centre was closed for the day. We would come back the next day to check out the textile art.
In the evening, we dined at our host’s place with three other fellow travelers, two from Belgium and one from France. In the candle lit dining room, we had a simple meal with soup, egg omelet and rice. After dinner, the entire host family including the kids performed their traditional music for us. Away from any electronics and digital devices, the night was simple yet surreal. Inside the dining room, it was warm and full of music and laughter. Outside the house, it was freezing cold and extremely quiet on an island in Lake Titicaca at 3,800m above sea level. Before bed, we took turns going to the toilet hut in the courtyard in front of the house. The full moon was climbing over our heads as we retired to our bedroom. Our bedroom was on the upper level accessible only via an external stair. Wrapped under three to four layers of wool blankets, the four of us had a very soundly sleep until the next morning.
It was a 20 minute walk from the pier to the main square of Taquile, passing by farming terraces and the boundless Lake Titicaca. Amantani, another island popular with tourists, stood prominently in the distant.
The slope of the hills became terraced farmland.
Taquile is living village and we love the sense of community on the island.
The host took us a small restaurant in the main square for lunch. He ordered the local trout dish for us. The fresh water fish is slightly pan fired. The meat was sweet and tender. The fish was served with fries, rice and steamed vegetable.
After lunch, the host guided us to his place where we met his family and left our luggage. He then brought us to the the local school. There was actually some festival performance there.
Children with traditional costumes were doing dance and act performances.
We followed our host up to the high part of the island.
The highest spot of the island stood a series of ruined buildings and our host had no idea when they were actually built.
School building in Taquile.
Taquile is a peaceful living village with a great sense of community. Most of the foreign visitors made one-day trip to the island. After the tourists left with the last boat, the island became peaceful again.
We love Taquile for its sense of community. Most islanders here would greet us warmly when they walked past us.
The Artisan Centre at the main square of the island.
Gateway leading to the main square of the village.
Photovoltaic panels to supply electricity was becoming more popular when we visited Taquile.
We passed by the school complex once again before we returned to our host’s place.
At our host’s place, the four of us stayed at the upper room (the one with the door open). The family prepared new woolen blankets to keep us warm for the night. Accommodation was simple but we had a good night of sleep after all the walking.
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Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010
1. Peru Trip 2010
2. Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3. Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4. Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5. Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6. Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru