While Togoshi Ginza may not be the top of any tourist’s list in Tokyo, if you are thinking of visiting a shotengai, Togoshi Ginza is definitely worth dropping by. Shotengai provides you the chance to catch a glimpse of the everyday life of a Jap-anese, and also to sample some of Japan’s most authentic local street food. And Togoshi-Ginza, with its impressive length and over 400 nostalgic stores flanking the street, will endow you with the exceptional experience of a shotengai stroll like no other!
The moment you step foot into Togoshi Ginza, you will notice a visible lack of util-ity poles that are so characteristic of Tokyo streets, making the street look unclut-tered and more spacious.
The street is closed to cars from Monday to Saturday between 3:00pm and 6:00pm, and from 2:00pm to 7:00pm on Sundays and holidays. This move makes the street easy to walk about in when there are no cars passing through the narrow roads.
Say Hello to Gin-chan!
This street is also interesting in that it has its own official mascot, Togoshi Ginjiro, also known affectionately as Gin-chan. Gin-chan figurines can be found peppered throughout the street, with some of them placed at the entrance of shops, custom-ized to fit the shop theme.
While there are many Gin-chan statues scattered throughout the street, there are three life-sized statues known as the Gin-chan of Good Fortune which you should definitely look out for. They each hold a different colored ball in their hands which will bless you if you rub the ball.
Lovely Gin-chan clasping the pink ball will sprinkle you blessings of sweet ro-mance (as you already have your significant other, you might be blessed with even more bliss in your relationship if you rub the ball together!), Healthy Gin-chan with the blue ball will put you in the pink of health, and Lucky Gin-chan with the gold ball will bestow you with good fortune. Try finding all three to further boost your luck, and you might even get to meet Gin-chan in person!
We were particularly lucky when we visited Togoshi Ginza (perhaps because we found all three balls), for we met not only Gin-chan, but also his neighbour, Osaki Ichibantaro, Osaki’s official mascot. Needless to say, the children were utterly en-amored by these mascots, but even the adults were unable to escape their vivacious charm. The more you take photos and videos of them, the more animated they will become. So don’t be shy and say hi to these adorable mascots!
Street Food Galore
There are only a few places in Tokyo where you can walk around freely with a snack in your hand, and Togoshi Ginza is probably one of the best. Being the long-est shotengai in Tokyo, anyone will be able to find something to their liking.
Pork Rice Ball Stick by Tontan
We were first drawn to a shop with a long queue. Crowds are often the best deter-minator of good food, and this shop is no exception. Tontan is a restaurant special-izing in grilled pork dishes which offers a take-out street food option, buta-maki onigiri gushi (pork rice ball stick). It may look like an ordinary sausage from afar, but it is actually a rice ball stick wrapped with chargrilled pork, an intriguing com-bination whereby the meat envelopes the rice, lending a smokey taste to the white rice.
Oden Croquette by Goto Kamabokoten
This shop is famous for its oden (one-pot winter dish) croquette, so it is a definite must-try out of the various street food it offers. It may be hard to imagine the soup filling captured in a crunchy croquette, but it turned out to be really delectable if somewhat quirky fusion. Somehow they have captured the goodness of oden broth within the meat inside the croquette.
Cheese Hanpen by Goto Kamabokoten
Besides its famous oden croquette, this shop has many other mouth-watering deli-cacies, and cheese lovers will not be able to resist a cheese hanpen (Japanese fishcake). Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, stuffed with melted cheese. What’s there not to like about it?
Okonomitaiyaki by Omedetaiyaki Honpo
This is a taiyaki shop selling the traditional taiyaki (fish-shaped pastry usually filled with sweet red bean paste) with a unique twist. There are unusual fillings ranging from custard to okonomiyaki (pan-fried food consisting of batter, cabbage and other various fillings), and they also have seasonal offerings too! Okonomitaiyaki, a mishmash of okonomiyaki and taiyaki, is only available on Saturdays and Sundays. Looking like a deceptively simple taiyaki on the outside, you will be pleasantly greeted by a detonation of complex flavours from the savoury okonomiyaki filling within. The taiyaki is unlike the usual crispy taiyaki in that it is soft and fluffy like a pancake, and goes exceptionally well with the okonomiyaki filling that practical-ly oozes out once you bite into the taiyaki.
Crispy Soup Dumpling by Ryuuki
Crispy xiao long bao (chinese soup dumpling) which the Japanese call shoronpo, is not exactly local Japanese food, nor a unique delicacy. But the shoronpo served in this nondescript shop deserves laud purely for its yum factor. It may be a messy food to eat while walking, but there is a small table provided for you to sit snugly with your partner and feed each other a bite of this dumpling. Beyond the thin crunchy exterior lies the rich warm broth that bursts in your mouth the moment you bite into it.
Animal Doughnuts by Floresta Togoshi Ginza
Lastly, how can you miss a trip in the land of all things kawaii (cute) without trying some kawaii food? This doughnut shop sells doughnuts with various animal coating that are almost too cute to eat! And though they may look like they will give you a sugar high, they are actually not cloyingly sweet, and the doughnut is dense and crispy with a touch of nutty aftertaste. Buy a pair of these adorable doughnuts and take some insta-worthy food photos to mark your couple trip with some irresistible cuteness!