A short walk from the east exit of the JR Nippori train station in Arakawa Ward, Tokyo, is a narrow alleyway that used to have many dagashi wholesale stores. Dagashiya shopowners would come here to buy stocks of dagashi to sell in their stores. "More than 30 years ago, there used to be as many as 140 wholesalers here," says proprietress Oya Yukiko of Oya Shoten, one of only two dagashi wholesalers remaining in the district.
As dagashi shops disappeared from the towns, so did the dagashiya wholesalers that used to supply them. Most of the remaining wholesalers closed down with the redevelopment of Nippori Station that began in 2004. Oya Shoten and the other surviving wholesale store will continue business at temporary locations.
Oya Shoten stocks several hundred kinds of dagashi, as well as toys and lottery sets. The store not only sells these products in bulk but also sells them by the piece for individual customers, so it is always busy with customers ranging from high school students and families with children to retailers. Recently it has become quite common for people to buy large quantities for fairs being held at local shopping malls, bazaars held at nursery schools, and school festivals at high schools and universities. The shop is also popular with foreign exchange students in Japan who come to buy the candies to take home as souvenirs.
Ms. Oya would keep bringing out different dagashi from boxes in the back, saying, "We have candies like these, too," or, "This just came in today." Just looking at the colorful variety of candies is exciting. Ms. Oya says, "The kids seem overwhelmed by all the different kinds of candies, and they look around wide-eyed. It's usually the mothers who jump up with joy and buy lots of candies. Not many dagashi shops are left, but I hope to keep the business going somehow."
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Dagashi stores are reminders of the good old days in Japan. Although their numbers have decreased, you can still see them here and there, sometimes in unexpected places. In the huge Sunshine City building complex in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, for instance, you will find a dagashi shop among dozens of fancy shops. And Mata-ashita, a shop in Shinagawa Ward, recently opened a dagashiya corner. Why not explore Tokyo in search of a shop full of colorful dagashi?
Nippori: From Tokyo Station, take the JR Yamanote Line to Nippori Station.
Sunshine City: From Tokyo Station, take the JR Yamanote Line or Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line to Ikebukuro Station. Sunshine City is an eight-minute walk from the east exit.
Mata-ashita: From Tokyo Station, take the JR Keihin Tohoku or Yamanote Line to Shinagawa Station. Change trains to the Keikyu Line and get off the train at Kita-Shinagawa Station. Walk south from the station for about 5 minutes.