The Ameyoko shopping district in Ueno was the first place I visited in Japan more than 15 years ago. It started as a black market after WWII, where a lot of American goods were sold. It’s filled with street stalls food and clothes at discounted prices. It’s the place to go if you’re looking for some cheap (probably Chinese-grown) matsutake mushrooms, five-toed socks, or Hershey’s kisses.
I always feel nostalgic when I go back there, partly because it reminds me of my first few days in Japan, and partly because it never changes. Japan is a country that is constantly under construction, one of the faddiest places in the world, and when you walk through a shop, it seems like at least half the products say shinhatsubai (new product) on them. But in Ameyoko, you still feel like you’re in post-war, developing Japan when the yen was like 300 yen to the dollar. It’s poor but lively, with more colorful characters per square kilometer than anywhere else in the country.
By the way, if you’re looking for big-size clothes, Ameyoko is actually a really good place to find them. I found some size 29 sneakers (3500 yen), an XXL sweater (3000 yen) that fits me (I’m 6’4) and some 34-inch inseam jeans (2500 yen). Of course, they’re not exactly the height of fashion, but they’re not horrible either.