Asakusa Underground Shopping Street the Japan’s Oldest Underground Mall

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People walk in the Asakusa Underground Shopping Street in Taito Ward, Tokyo.

The Asakusa Underground Shopping Street, directly connected to Asakusa subway station, opened in 1955 and is the nation’s oldest existing underground shopping center.

Once you step inside, you will see bare pipes running along the ceiling and signs that remind you of the olden days. You may feel as if you have stepped back in time to the Showa era (1926-1989).

The underground shopping center connects the station with Shinnakamise shopping street and has been inviting people to make a detour on their way to Sensoji temple for many years.

Currently, there are about 15 stores of various types, including a tavern, a general merchandise store, a discount ticket shop and a barbershop. It is fun just to walk around and look at them.

Many of the stores are unique, and you can enjoy an izakaya where you can get heavily drunk for ¥1,000, or a barbershop where a cut is ¥800.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The shopping center directly connects to a station corridor.

“There have always been many restaurants offering foods that are cheap and tasty, and come fast. Since this place is close to the station, some businessmen relax here in their free time,” said Shoji Hori, 87, owner of Asakusa PR Center, a printing business that has been operating here for nearly 40 years. “The old-fashioned atmosphere and unchanged scenery remain here.”

In recent years, there have been many young people and foreign tourists visiting the shopping street to take pictures of the retro scenery. To further attract such visitors, new stores such as Asian cuisine restaurants and a bar where staff members dress up as ninjas have opened in the arcade.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Old-fashioned posters hang on a door.

One such store is Souse, a secondhand clothing store that mainly sells T-shirts. Opened last year, the interior is modern and stylish.

“This location is interesting, and it hit something in my mind. There is a strong Showa-era atmosphere here, but when I opened the shop, I felt a strange fit. I felt the nostalgia of the underground mall,” said owner Shun Yamaguchi.

In the 70 years since its opening, the underground shopping center has seen many people come and go. It will continue to bring a fresh breeze while maintaining its good qualities.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Above the stairs to the underground shopping street is a sign depicting the mall’s mole mascot.

I wonder what kind of scenery I will see the next time I visit. As I left the underground shopping center behind, I felt excited again.


The Yomiuri Shimbun

Asakusa Underground Shopping Street

Address: 1-1-12 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo

Access: Directly connected to Exit 6 of Asakusa Station on the Ginza Line

Note: In addition to restaurants that have been in business since the Showa era, there are also Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, giving the area a multinational flavor.