Shotengai: A local Japanese commercial district
It is a style of Japanese commercial district, typically in the form of a local market street that is closed to car traffic. It is a Japanese term that can be translated as "shopping street". It is a pedestrian mall, side road, or small area lined with many retail shops. With a diverse mix of small specialty shops and few large retailers, local shōtengai cater to the needs of nearby residents. These streets serve as cultural gathering spaces, holding seasonal festivals, processions, in many older neighborhoods and other events throughout the year. Along roads leading to large shrines or temples, much older shōtengai developed. To date back to the medieval markets and free shops of the early 16th century the history of shotengai is believed. These streets, today, lined with small shops give visitors a glance into everyday life in Japan since shotengai is a place where the locals go to find their everyday necessities and specialty items.
With some of the larger ones stretching for a few blocks and in all directions, the size of the shopping street differs. To have to wait to cross over a road to continue your shopping in the shotengai is not uncommon. With a roof, some shotengai are covered and these are usually called arcades. With small mom and pop shops, shotengai are packed. In a shotengai shops often include cheap eateries, izakaya, dry cleaners, convenience stores, clothing shops, arcades, pachinko, grocery stores, vegetable stands, and book shops. Usually, shotengai don't have bars or other nightlife. Normally shops in a shotengai close before 11 or 12 pm. In every large Japanese city, shotengai are found. Sometimes shotengai are considered private property. By shop owner association they are run. In the affairs of a shotengai police are known to be hesitant to interfere.
These are usually located around train stations near residential areas so the people you see would be folks going about their daily life as opposed to seeing office women grab lunch or dinner. This is the reason that many shotengai associations are now trying to re-evaluate their roles in their community, while there are signs that customers, too, are beginning to rediscover the value of their community-based services and businesses. With events, decorations and contests shotengai promote themselves. Some shotengai have pretty electronic decorations. By one or two large retailers, a neighborhood shōtengai may be anchored.
At shotengai, some unique foods and souvenirs can only be found here. In terms of the sense of distance between the shop owner and customer the Japanese shotengai also differs from a typical supermarket and shopping mall. Customers can enjoy chatting with the shop owner as they do their shopping, at a shotengai shop. Even some regular customers stop in and have a cup of tea while conversing with the shop owners. Similar to the public markets the shotengai has an atmosphere found in many cities outside Japan, where the locals can enjoy their shopping. The shop proprietors within shōtengai often own the buildings where their shops operate, rather than leasing space from a single landlord or development firm is the most uncommon feature of most other urban commercial districts. Rather than being forced to focus solely on economic utility, this gives shōtengai shop owners more freedom to relate to and serve the social needs of their neighborhood.
More centrally located shōtengai often include a larger percentage of chain retailers, as well as hotels, convenience stores, or pachinko parlors, in larger cities. Within shōtengai Restaurants and prepared foods commonly include izakaya, kissaten, wagashi, sushi, udon, and ramen or tempura shops. Within or adjacent to shōtengai often include a post office or neighborhood kōban police substation Public services located. In Japan, Most suburbs and towns have shōtengai of varying sizes, and larger shōtengai may take the form of covered arcades that are accessible only by foot or bicycle.