Underground shopping streets are part of the topography of big cities in Japan. They are very much a part of day-to-day activities, though you’ll also find them in business and commercial neighborhoods, such as Fukuoka City’s Tenjin. 

Though Tenjin can attribute many of its latest headlines to its growing start-up hub, it is perhaps more famous for its namesake underground shopping street, Tenchika. First opened in 1976, Tenchika is one of the few themed department stores in Japan with European motifs, with numbered corridors called avenues for an immersive Western feel. Visitors can shop at about 150 stores and eateries. 

No Passport Needed

Tenchika pulled inspiration from Western Europe’s most recognizable trends, periods and regions. The facility itself was built in the shape of a theater where the aisles are the seats and the individual shops are the stages. The soft lighting makes an afternoon of window shopping feel like you’re wandering the alleys of medieval Europe under a full moon. 

Collections of artworks and decorative elements transport shoppers to a different continent. An important motif is stained glass, with about a dozen works found along the street. The pieces are reproductions of famous artworks by Italian artists and were custom-made in Milan.

Shoppers will also see a range of masonry styles reminiscent of Southern Europe. Keep an eye out for replicas of entire facades with European windows inspired by French courtyard gardens. Walking by immediately soothes the soul, taking you further away from Fukuoka.

These details and more will certainly spark the thought, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Fukuoka anymore.”

Restrooms Worth the Wait

Tenchika takes its European style seriously — all the way into the shopping street’s restrooms— each with its own spin on the theme. Matching fragrances complete the transformation.

On East 2nd Avenue, the restrooms mimic the study of a British female novelist, mainly inspired by Jane Austen. The counter, walls and decorations are meant to recreate a bookish, calming space. 

A restroom on West 6th Avenue is inspired by a luxury Paris boutique, not too different from what you might find in the 3e Arrondissement. Another washroom further down, on East 10th Avenue, immerses its user into the world of French royalty, which is unveiled in its baby blue walls, pink accents and heavy use of botanical decor elements. 

At the south end of the street, on West 12th Avenue, the Aegean Sea takes over. Soft colors and curious knick-knacks add finishing touches that will make you feel like you’ve entered a cozy cottage on the coast of Greece.

For more information on new openings, events and offers visit the official Tenchika website.


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