There are few places in Tokyo like Ueno’s Ameyoko. A remnant of the Yamiichi (闇市, black markets) from the post-war days when basic food staples like white rice and sugar were in short supply, Ameyoko (アメ横) maintains a tradition of outdoor vendors hawking goods, yelling prices and deals, and bartering with customers. Tourists and visitors mingle with locals for bargain prices on everything from electronics and clothes, to large, fresh fish and vegetables.
Ameyoko at Year’s end is a sight unlike any other in Japan. People come from all over for fresh products like king crab, salmon roe, “Datemaki” and other ingredients for “Osechi Ryori”. Osechi are traditional New Year’s foods served in square boxes, often partitioned and stackable, called “Jubako”. Ingredients contain special meaning relevant to the New Year, and are often chosen to individual preference. Along with Ozoni, pounded rice cake in broth, Osechi are eaten over the three day New Year period.
The number of visitors to Ameyoko continues to grow as the year end approaches. Nearly 2 million people from around the city gather on the 30th and 31st of December, hoping for deals that occasionally reach as low as half the original price.