Tokyo: Step into Good Ole Showa Era Days at Gifuya Penny Candy Shop

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The penny candy store Gifuya, built more than 70 years ago, exudes a Showa-era atmosphere.

Walking into the Gifuya penny candy shop in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward is like stepping into the Showa era (1926-89).

Located near Araiyakushi-mae Station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line, the shop sells dagashi inexpensive, old-fashioned sweets and toys, posters and other items in a small, cramped space. The establishment is a taste of the good ole days.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The shop is crammed with old-fashioned dagashi penny candy.

The shop was crowded on a weekday evening in May with customers of all ages including small children and mothers, as well as the elderly who had come to buy cigarettes.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Customers look at products inside the store.

A third-grade elementary school boy was buying gummies, candy and other items, carefully making sure the total price would be within his ¥500 allowance.

Gifuya has been here for more than 70 years. The parents of Yoshiaki Tsuchiya, 67, the current owner, came to Tokyo from Gifu Prefecture in 1949 and opened the shop in a burned-out area in the aftermath of World War II. They sold sembei crackers, bread, cigarettes and other miscellaneous goods.

Tsuchiya left the corporate work world and took over Gifuya in 2006 after his father fell ill.

He decided to focus on affordable dagashi as another product pillar as cigarette sales dwindled. Then he dreamed up the idea of creating a shop with the period of 1955 to 1964 as the theme.

“I wanted to capture the lively feeling of the time of rapid economic growth in postwar Japan,” Tsuchiya said. “I thought the feeling of that era would lift people’s spirits.”

To re-create Gifuya’s atmosphere from when it was built around 1950, he installed a wooden floor and lighting that resembles the round light bulbs of the time.

He displayed action figures of superheroes such as Ultraman and decorated the walls with posters of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the Beatles.

The shop was designed to “touch each person’s heartstrings,” Tsuchiya said.

He tries to put kids at ease such as by keeping certain shelves at the eye level of small children and regularly asking them, “How are you?”

Tsuchiya sells Umaibo stick-shaped corn puffs to elementary school students for ¥10 including tax, even though last year the price increased to ¥12 excluding tax.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Umaibo stick-shaped corn puffs cost ¥10 including tax for elementary school students, whereas adults pay ¥12 excluding tax.

“I can’t make kids pay that much,” he said.

However, the business — built on thin margins — has been hit hard by the waves of recent price hikes.

“I don’t know how much longer I can hold out,” Tsuchiya said.

I hope Gifuya will continue to be a place for relaxation and refreshment for both kids and adults.

The Yomiuri Shimbun


Address: 5-44-3, Kami-Takada, Nakano Ward, Tokyo

Access: 2-minute walk from Araiyakushi-mae Station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line

Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Closed on Wednesdays and irregular holidays.