Exploring Shopping Streets In Kichijoji 2

Incidentally, there was a statue in a space in front of JR Kichijoji Station of an elephant with letters inscribed describing it as Hanako who was popular in the Inogashira Zoo Park that seems to be located within about 10 minute walk from the station. When I looked up the Internet as I had known little about the elephant, I can’t bring myself to say anything about it as I found the story about her was too tragic to refer to while Hanako (this name has been dealt with as a representative name for Japanese girls although it should be seen as old-fashioned now) was originally brought over here from Thailand.

I decided to get into the shopping mall that looks larger than the other one. It is likely to be called “KIchijoji Sunroad Shopping Mall.” The banner hung from the top is really conspicuous with the letters saying “Gei Shun” in kanji Chinese characters that denotes welcoming spring while it is the word often referred to any items exchanged or shown at the beginning of a new year including greeting cards in Japan.

This year corresponds to the year of the dog according to the Chinese zodiac signs. While the kanji 戌 can be found to be used for the year of the dog somehow instead of 犬 that is usually used for the friendly animal, I found online that the 戌 originally means “going extinct.” Nevertheless, it is not about anything bad and it represents “the emergence of new life.” Therefore, it seems to mean your efforts you had made the year before would bear fruit this year. Exciting, isn’t it?

That being said, come to think of it, it is uncertain why that concept can be associated with the dog as it is left undescribed in the explanation I found on the Internet!

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This day I was in Kichijoji encompassed in the areas along the JR Chūō Line. JR Kichijoji Station is located next to JR Nishi Ogikubo Station I had used to visit its vicinity the other day.

Actually, I had often visited Kichijoji late in my teens and early in my 20s as there was an office of an education-related organization I had been related to as a participant and, later, an assistant. Nevertheless, I don’t remember much about where it was located with the drastic change the area should have experienced since then. I believe Kichijoji should be one of the areas that have changed most dramatically along the JR Chūō LIne areas.

This mall seems to be called “Daiya (diamond) Mall” while I feel like I like the name as it sounds like a shopping mall that existed in the Showa Period. This Daiya Mall much have been here since then too even though it now has a lot of new buildings inside and surrounding it. Because it was at the beginning of the New Year 2018, you can find a banner saying Kinga Shinnen (Happy New Year) hung from the eves of the mall. Moreover, I expect a lot of people coming out on the street.

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As this building is still being used as a ryokan Japanese inn, its retro appearance, atmosphere and presence really make me want to stay here some day. I think it is truly miraculous that such a nice building still remains as it was.

What a nice pointed roof top seemingly made from copper plates! I believe it is the result of exquisite ingenuity of carpentry to shape the plates this way so that the roof top end up having such a gracefully curved shape. I wonder what the projecting object on the left-hand side rising from the eaves is for.

I really like the curve elegantly applied to the shape of the whole building in the center. Oh, well, this Seiko Lodging truly makes it worth visiting this area again to see it. I can imagine how much attention this building had drawn from people when it was built in 1938 as such a western style modern looking building should have been pretty rare at that time.

Although I kept visiting this area almost regularly when I was in my teens with my friends living in a district not far away from here, I had not known such a nice building had existed. I was so lucky to have managed to find it out!

This equipment has a guide to Seiko Lodging with an illustration of it and a piece of senryu short poetry that is a more casual and folksy form of haiku 17 syllable Japanese poetry form while it goes as “Rojjingu (Lodging)/the Showa modern (style)/looking up at.” The grammatical difference between Japanese and English makes a part of it reverse in order. Senryu was a style invented by ordinary people by imitating the haiku poetry form adored by the aristocracy so that the senryu is more about daily things depicted in funny ways although the haiku is more serious.

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This is the view from the opposite side of Seikou Building. I really like the presence and atmosphere of the whole building.

It feels like only this part of the area permeates an atmosphere as if I have slipped into another time belonging to the past.

The sign on the outer wall says it is a ryokan Japanese inn that can accommodate large and small parties including wedding receptions although the old-looking sign makes it uncertain whether they are still acceptable. Although this building got started as an inn, it seems that it is also used partly as an apartment now.

This is the rear side of the building. There is a mark on the wall that shows a window filled in afterwards. It is really a conspicuous building amidst the modern buildings surrounding it.

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Here it is! This is the building I wanted to see as I had found it out online by chance the other day.

The information available online describes this building called “Seikou Rojjingu (Lodging)” as the one built in 1938 (Showa 13). I find it is truly marvelous.

What draws attention is that it has the sign saying “Seikou Rojjingu (Lodging)” on the wall with letters to be read from right to left as it was a custom of writing for a certain period of time perhaps until the mid-Showa Period when the letters were written or printed horizontally.

It is interesting to find the letters include the letter ヂ (di) instead of ジ (ji/zi) for the sound “dgi” in the word “lodging” while it is often found in printed materials from the earlier times. For example, the word ビルディング (building) is often found to have been printed as ビルヂング at that time because, in this case, ヂ (di) might have been perceived as closer to the original sound of the word from the English language. Even now, there are old architectures built in the early or mid-Showa Period with the signs referring to them as ビルヂング even along with the new buildings doing the same as they took over the names after the previous buildings had been rebuilt into the new ones.

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This one is also a fabulous-looking Showa building that should have been built in the early or mid-Showa Period. It looks lonely amidst the modern-looking tall buildings. Oh, just in case, this is not the building I came here for as I happened to find it out by chance on the street.

It is fun to imagine such Showa style buildings used to be lined along the street. Although there must have been more traditional Showa buildings when I was younger, I don’t remember what the view was like anymore unfortunately. These pictures I am taking might be of help to remember the lost Showa townscape in the future. I guess it is the last stage at which situations allow me to take pictures of Showa buildings retaining the forms they used to have.

Look at this overhang above the window. Showa buildings often have this kind of nicely leveled projecting parts above windows while I am not sure if they will work properly as something that would avoid rain and the like. They might have put more emphasis on decorative functions than practical ones at that time, and I believe these parts actually make each Showa building look attractive.

It might have been that, without being able to afford to make the whole building decorative, Showa people had such parts featured. Nevertheless, I feel like they are really attractive features of early or mid-Showa buildings.

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This day I was in Ogikubo again as I learnt that there was another retro-looking building I had missed when I had visited the area last time and found it so fascinating that it would be worth visiting it and showing it to all of you.

Although this is not the building I am supposed to visit, I think it is also an attractive retro building while I found it out by chance on my way to the building mentioned above. As it was at the beginning of the new year 2018, most of the places are closed on the street. While this seems to be a Japanese bar that makes it most likely that it is closed in the daytime, it has a sign put up on the wall giving New Year’s greetings to customers as many stores customarily do that.

I should have taken a picture of the sign more beautifully. This is a picture just enlarged from the above photo. Store owners put up a sign like this at the beginning of a new year. It is so familiar to me that it made me forget to take a picture of it separately to show it to you. I hope it is enough to make you understand what it looks like!

What I especially like about this building is the position, size and shape of the small vertical window placed on the wall. Judging from the position that looks sort of unnatural and what the stains look like on the wall, it makes it likely that there was a signboard or something on the wall in the past and that it is the reason they didn’t set any large opening on the wall placing only the small window in a marginal space even though I am not sure whether the parts projecting from the wall on the left were for the purpose of supporting the sign if any.

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These should also be buildings that have existed since the Showa Period. The one on the left-hand side appears to be a bookstore even though it has no sign saying so. It is convincing that this area has such a specialty bookstore that attracts those who love particular kinds of books while they seem to sell something like picture books even though I don’t think it has ever been a bookstore as it should have some other business in the Showa Period.

This is the view of the street, from the opposite direction, I had walked down. I hope you can enjoy an atmosphere that we used to have in the Showa Period. I guess this part of the area should remain almost the same as they used to be since the Showa Period.

Here are some buildings that seem to have been here since the Showa Period although many buildings have been replaced by modern-looking new ones unavoidably.

I’ve just noticed that this street is called “Heiwa Dori (Peace Street).” I hope they will stay peaceful just like its name! OK, this is the end of the articles on the Nishi Ogikubo area. It was truly a bummer that I hadn’t had a good weather even though the town should have looked much better otherwise.

Nevertheless, I realize it was worthwhile to visit this area so that I could see the bar Mataemon I had visited a few times when I was in my 20s after a long while. Although it was a weird place where a man dressed like a samurai even wearing a katana sword in the scabbard on his waist was found to be playing saxophone, I like these JR Chūō Line areas about its broad-mindedness to allow all kinds of people who do something attractive and interesting to exist together.

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This is another building that should have been built in the Showa Period with the signboard architecture and the window pockets typical of the Showa architectures. Moreover, there seems to be a place I visited a few times when I was in my 20s among these buildings along this street…

Here it is!  The part on the left-hand side of this building, the second floor, used to be a Japanese bar where a jam session of jazz was held every Sunday (I think it was Sundays if my memory serves me right)!

Can you find saxophones painted on the sign with the letters just barely legible? The thing is, the owner always wore kimono with a katana Japanese sword in its scabbard on his waist even while he was playing the saxophone! He really looked like a samurai in kimono with his hair tied up behind him, and he called himself “Mataemon” (his bar had the same name) as it sounds like a person’s name from the Edo Period (1603-1868) although I don’t think it was his real name.

The bar Mataemon seems to have been closed a long time ago with the owner’s whereabouts left unknown as the place is now used as a Brazilian bar or something. While I saw him just a few times including the jam session as one of my friends took me to the bar for the first time saying there is a unique man and bar (the friend plays saxophone), I think the man in disguise of a samurai was so unique from every perspective!

As far as I know, it is likely that he also had a dojo (training hall) where he taught iaido, the Japanese martial art derived from kenjutsu (Japanese swordsmanship), that he should have practiced. In addition, a music and foreign language class were likely to be held at the bar in the daytime if my memory is correct. I think it is a characteristic of these JR Chūö Line areas that unique store owners can often be found to exist.

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Here is another secondhand bookstore on this back street! It is amazing that these areas along the JR Chūō Line have so many traditional style of book stores, even though some of them are in brand-new buildings, including the ones selling secondhand books and stationery stores. If it were in another part of Tokyo, I believe the business owners would not manage. I think people who are interested in something cultural tend to live in these areas as it is said many artists and writers have lived there traditionally.

This building looks so old while it is apparently a building that should have been built in the mid-Showa Period or before. Moreover, it is a fishing gear store. This should illustrate how much these areas have been resided by those who love their hobbies. Although I am sure the other areas of Tokyo should have had such places, it would be rare that they still remain in these particular areas along the JR Chūō Line.

The building in front should be another Showa architecture. It is intriguing to find that the sign with the letters hardly legible can read “Toshiba Karā Terebi (Color Television).” It should have been here since color television started being around in Japan as it was in the late 1960s.

Furthermore, the building next door has the sign saying “Niibori Gitā (Guitar)” with brilliant blue and red that actually evokes a feeling of nostalgia because I saw the signs in almost every part of Tokyo when I was a child in the 1960s and 1970s as it is a guitar school founded in 1957 (I have checked on the Internet now). Probably the school had a lot of places where they teach playing guitar all over Tokyo at that time when playing folk guitar was so popular among youth back then.

This particular guitar school found to remain in this area may also indicate there are still more people living in these areas along the JR Chūō Line who love their hobbies than in any other parts of Tokyo. At least that is the impression I have about the JR Chūō Line areas.

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This is quite an old building that should have been here since the Showa Period. It is interesting to have a restaurant which looks like a Thai food place with the national flags that the building should not have had in the Showa Period.

It is fun to see national flags of different nations displayed in front of each place serving its home food. It should be conspicuous to people from the countries where the food is eaten. It is also intriguing to find people’s preferences of food according to the locations where they live. Even inside Japan, there are regional differences in the taste and people’s preferences of food basically, in Japan’s case, depending on the eastern or western part of the island.

This is a traditional ramen place while the building looks so old. As it was packed with people eating their ramen with a person waiting outside and, in addition, I saw a stubborn-looking old man cooking ramen inside, this may be a famous and popular ramen place. Stubborn looks of chefs, at least in Japan, are usually seen as the sign indicating they are skillful chefs very much meticulous about the taste of food they serve with ingenuity.

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This is an eye-opening, traditional style of cafe typical of the Showa Period. Along with bookstores including the ones dealing in second-hand books and stationery stores, such Showa style cafes are truly attractive and comfortable when having a cup of coffee in there as opposed to chain cafes that have taken place of family-run traditional style cafes over the last decades. Including the appearances and atmospheres I really love these Showa style cafes due to the unparalleled comfort they provide to us.

I keep strolling along back streets packed with so many tiny bars and restaurants. I hope the sort of mysterious atmosphere it has can be conveyed to you properly!

Oh, here is a Greek cuisine restaurant which is rare, I suppose. As I said before, there are a lot of restaurants where you can enjoy foods from a variety of countries outside of Japan now in Tokyo as many people start living there from outside of Japan. Along with them, quite a few Japanese young people can be found to try to have their own places including stores and small restaurants according to their own ideas even apart from traditional or conventional ways to run those places. It is extremely exciting to see some of them have their places in old-fashioned Showa style buildings as they prefer to do that.