Across Sumida River from Ryogoku and south of touristy Asakusa lies the low key Kuramae (蔵前), a hub for young artists and craftsmen in Tokyo. After visiting two interesting museums in Sumida, we opted for a moment of relaxation just a stone throw away at Kuramae. Like many up and coming neighborhoods, Kuramae contains a rather leisure atmosphere. Without the tourist crowds that we would normally see in other more popular areas of Tokyo, there were still a considerable amount of local visitors in the area. Queues were lined up in front of some of the most popular shops such as Kakimori, the wonderful shop of handmade stationery, fountain pens and anything related to writing. We started off at Camera, a cosy little cafe selling good coffee, snacks, and handmade leather accessories.
We started our brief Kuramae visit at Camera cafe.
We sat by the long counter with coffee and snacks. There were a few racks and shelves of leather accessories on display behind us.
Maito offers a wide range of clothes and accessories made with dyes extracted from nature, such as flowers and tree bark.
The most popular shop in Kuramae we encountered was undoubtedly Kakimori stationery shop. Visitors lined up outside the shop waiting for their turn to put together a custom made notebook with self-selected paper, cover, ribbon, etc.
Inside Kakimori, other visitors were busy checking out the fountain pens, ink, and other writing accessories.
Dandelion Chocolate was another highly popular bean-to-bar chocolate factory originated from San Francisco.
We also spent some time at Koncept, a trendy shop with cool merchandises from all over Japan.
After Kuramae, we took the metro to visit another interesting trendy fashion and design store, the La Kagu. A grand wooden staircase provided a welcoming gesture for all pedestrians and visitors.
Converted from a 1965 warehouse of a publishing company by renowned architect Kengo Kuma (隈研吾), La Kagu immediately became a retail landmark in at Kagurazaka (神楽坂).
La Kagu is consisted of different lifestyle zones: food, clothing, shelter and knowledge.
After La Kagu, we walked along the high street of Kagurazaka (神楽坂). Kagurazaka (神楽坂) is a traditional Japanese neighborhood with a French twist, thanks to the considerable number of French expats living in the area.
Cafes, restaurants, bakeries and boutiques line up the high street of Kagurazaka (神楽坂).
In a side street, we stopped by a ramen store for dinner.
We ordered our ramen from the machine outside.
The friendly staff then prepared our bowls right in front of us.
No complain could be made by ending the day with a bowl of delicious ramen in a local neighborhood of Tokyo.
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.