Kofukuji Matsubara Shopping Street
Why is Yokohama’s “Kofukuji Matsubara Shopping Street” busy while shopping streets across the country are sluggish? Amazing number of visitors! What is an idea that increased 400,000 people a year?
“Kofukuji Matsubara Shopping Street” is a shopping street that straddles Hodogaya Ward and Nishi Ward in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture. It is a 6-minute walk along the old Tokaido Road toward Yokohama from the nearest station, Sagami Railway Tennocho Station. There are about 70 shops such as greengrocers, fish shops, butchers, flower shops, shoe shops, dry goods shops, liquor stores, and clothing stores in a 200m square area. It’s an old-fashioned shopping street with a retro atmosphere, but it’s a super popular shopping street that not only locals but also customers come all the way from afar.
The success of the shopping street is often featured on TV programs. It is said that there are 20,000 people on weekdays, 25,000 people on weekends, and 100,000 people at the end of the year. It is also called “Hama no Ameyoko”.
During the Edo period (17th century to mid-19th century), the area around Tennocho Station was Hodogaya-juku. Hodogaya-juku is the fourth post town from Nihonbashi on the Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido. Hiroshige Utagawa, an ukiyo-e artist, drew an ukiyo-e of the Katabira Bridge in Hodogaya-juku. In 1956, the location of the Katabira Bridge changed due to river improvement work on the Katabira River, but it is now maintained as a park, and there is a monument that reproduces the bridge in the park.
“Tachibana Shrine” is enshrined in the middle of the road (former Tokaido Road) from Tennocho Station to Kofukuji Matsubara Shopping Street. The enshrined deity is Susanoo no Mikoto, a deity that appears in Japanese mythology and controls plagues. Because he has the head of a cow, he is also called “Gozu Tenno (deity said to be the Indian god Gavagriva)”. This shrine is the origin of the name of Tennocho.
Kofukuji Matsubara Shopping Street began in 1952 as shopping sreet called “Matsubara Bargain Shopping Association.” It is a shopping street that has developed from the postwar era when there was nothing to sell, selling “cheapness”. On the other hand, in the vicinity of Kofuku-ji Temple on the south side of Matsubara Bargain Shopping Association, there was a shopping street called “Kofuku-ji Shoei Association”, and it was crowded with red-light district and adult entertainment cafe district. However, when the Anti-Prostitution Law was enforced in 1958, adult entertainment cafe district disappeared. Looking to the future, the two shopping streets merged in 1960 to form the Kofukuji Matsubara Shopping District. After that, when the Yokohama streetcar that ran to Kofuku-ji Temple was abolished, the number of pedestrians decreased, and the “former Kofuku-ji Shoei Association” part naturally disappeared. The current Kofukuji Matsubara Shopping Street is a form of the former Matsubara Bargain Shopping Association.
Kofuku-ji is a Zen temple founded in the late Kamakura period (1330s). In the precincts, there is enshrined a god of cough called Shaguuji Daigongen, who is commonly called “Oshamoji-sama”. In the past, when you caught a cold, it was said that if you brought back a rice scoop that was offered to Oshamoji-sama and stroked it on your throat, it would be effective. Besides there was a custom that when a visitor recovered from a cold, he would bring two rice scoops and offer them to Oshamoji-sama. Oshamoji-sama means deity of rice scoop in Japanese.
Currently, it is a lively shopping street, but due to the increase in large shopping malls and supermarkets nearby, the number of visitors to the Kofukuji Matsubara shopping street decreased sharply at one point. However, the people in the shopping district came up with various ideas and were able to increase the number of visitors to 400,000 a year. One of those ideas is the introduction of shopping carts. There has been an increase in the number of elderly people who find it difficult to carry heavy luggage and customers who buy in bulk.
Uoko Suisan is a fish shop that is very famous for its tuna dismantling show, which is purchased directly from Shimizu Port, and the shouts of enthusiastic sales by weight. In addition to tuna, the store also sells a wide variety of fresh fish at bargain prices. Even though it is a fish shop, there is a face cutout board so you can take a commemorative photo to make memories.
Togawa Shoten is a greengrocer whose specialty is the cardboard boxes piled on top of the tent roof. I didn’t have time or place to put the cardboard box away, so I chose this style. Some customers come all the way from afar just to watch the store clerk’s cardboard throwing performance.
The charm of Kofukuji Matsubara Shopping Street is “cheapness” and “humanity”. There are a lot of shops that seem to have “bargain sales” every day, and it’s attractive that the shopkeepers and customers can enjoy communicating with each other, rather than just shopping like a large store. And it’s even more attractive that every day is like a festival, and you can feel happy just by coming to the shopping street. Please visit Kofukuji Matsubara Shopping Street once. There is also a fun experience tour that will make your heart pound.
Writer of this article