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Tokyo: Shitamachi
"Shitamachi means 'towns below' and refers to those areas beneath the castle but still within the city limits. Edward Seidensticker has felicitously translated the term as 'Low City' - the hills became the Yamanote, the 'High City'. He has also estimated that the Low City, which gave Edo so much of its character,, only occupied about one-fifth of the city.
"It now occupies even less, the High City has grown so much. Yet the traditional Low City perseveres, even now remaining different in feeling from the Westernized Yamanote. Now comprised (according to the Shitamachi Museum) of Kanda, Nihombashi, Kyobashi, Shitaya (Ueno), Asakusa, Honjo and Fukagawa, it still retains what little is left of the feel of old Edo - distinctly plebian, also fun-loving, less inhibited than those remains of areas where the military aristocracy, the shogunate, observed its rules of decorum."
- Donald Richie, Tokyo, page 23

toy tutorial
Shitamachi Museum Toy Tutorial, with Lesser, December 2001

Near the large Ueno station, there's a fantastic Shitamachi Museum, toy tutor where that Tokyo part of town, circa 1860-1920 has been rebuilt, and it's interactive. You can enter an old shoe-makers shop and handle the tools. Same with an old copper-smith, an old general store, and an old home. Instructions are provided in English and Japanese. On the marvellous second floor, old toys are hands on, and when I visited there was an old man with large playful eyebrows who instructed us on play and left us with small thumb-string driven propellers. It was a perfect play date.

Shitamachi Neighborhoods:

Akihabara
The world capital of consumer electronics is located in old Tokyo - think of it as lively electronics merchants.

Uguisudani
An old Tokyo town of Love Hotels.


Shitamachi Links: (December 2001)

Tokyo | Japan | trip | life

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