Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Shōtengai 商店街

A shōtengai is a style of Japanese commercial district that usually run along a street and often connects to the nearest train station. Most suburbs and towns of Japan have shōtengai of varying size, and larger shōtengai may take the form of covered arcades that are blocked off to traffic. A typical shōtengai includes: groceries, restaurants, pachinko parlors, game centers, post offices, book shops, clothes shops and convenience stores. Shōtengai exude nostalgia, and not just to Japanese, it is almost palpable like a faint smell or far off sound. These shōtengai have a spirit, personality and history that the impersonal modern shopping mall just doesn't capture. However, many Shōtengai are failing (especailly the smaller ones) - evidenced by large numbers of shuttered and vacant stalls and outward signs of disrepair. It appears the shōtengai with its small independently or family run stores is becoming less preferred to the growing numbers of homogeneous mega malls - a trend most U.S. and many European cities also share.

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