by Mark Leong

Sleepy during the daytime and alive with activity after sundown, Sangenjaya is a harmonious mix of pop culture and traditional Japanese ethos: the Tokyo contrast at its best. Outside shops that have seen better days sit their respective owners, seemingly oblivious to the busy traffic passing by. Sandwiched between these shops are independent stores, such as an American goods store blasting Elvis’ Blue Suede Shoes.

Sitting in San Café listening to Bossa Nova music, I saw groups of housewives having a drink before picking up their kids from school. Next to them sat a septuagenarian pouring over what seemed like his balance sheet.
Then there was a university student doing her English homework, and a herd of well-mannered young men whose fashion sense, if described as anarchic punk, would be a gross understatement.

Upon exiting the station from the Chazawadori exit, make sure to visit Taishido Music Shop, a nifty little shop that sells everything having to do with music. Occupying the same spot for over 80 years, its current owner enjoys a chat with patrons and welcomes everyone with a warm smile. Classes and jam sessions are also available.

Walking back up Chazawa-dori, I made my way to the arcade parallel to Setagaya-dori, where once again, I felt I was going back in time. From Earth is a tiny store that sells fair trade and organic products, from jewelry and clothes to musical instruments and food products. At closing time live music from several doors down hit my eardrums. In another shop the owner listened intently as her friends’ band jammed on a guitar, a double bass and bongos.

Tip: For dinner, go off the beaten path to Suzuran-dori to enjoy a pint of Yebisu in one of the many izakayas and snakkus (a local watering hole). Most don’t have English speaking staff, but due to the recent proliferation of expats in the area, picture menus are common.