The opening of the new Tokyo Skytree tower in Sumida Ward has really shifted attention to Tokyo’s eastern, sleepier half. Young artisans and craftspeople in neighboring Taito Ward are hoping to draw some of it their way--in a bazaar beneath a set of railway tracks.
Continuing until May 27, “Monomachi,” as the event is called, brings together dozens of creative groups and craftsmen at two venues: 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan (located under the tracks connecting JR Akihabara and Okachimachi stations), and Taito Designers’ Village, a former Taito Ward elementary school in Asakusabashi that was converted into creative studios in 2004.
The two locations are within walking distance of each other, and are part of a slow cultural migration from Tokyo’s upscale neighborhoods in the west, such as Harajuku, Aoyama and Omotesando, the city’s traditional seat of fashion and design. East Tokyo offers cheaper rent and closer access to suppliers and workshops, and now it also boasts the 634-meter landmark tower.
“The focus has shifted to the east because of Tokyo Skytree,” says Seiichi Kimoto, a maker of traditional “kiriko” glass and organizer of the Monomachi event. “We want to show that the tower isn’t just an ornament. All around it you can find craftsmen and artists like us.”
The work of nearly 200 groups is represented at the 2k540 event, which is stocked with pottery, leather goods, jewelry, a 3-D printing shop and even a hammock cafe. Despite its proximity to the otaku haven of Akihabara, the place is normally quiet, and there are no anime or figure shops in the market.
The area will likely be a lot more bustling this weekend, however, the first weekend after Tokyo Skytree’s May 22 opening.
“The tower effect is amazing--people are flowing in even though we’re 2.5 kilometers away,” says Kimoto, who has deployed volunteers to the foot of Tokyo Skytree to distribute fliers.
Tourism officials estimate that the broadcast tower will attract some 30 million visitors in its first year. But not everyone will be able to go up into the tower due to physical limitations, such as the number of and capacity of the elevators.
That means overflow crowds will be keen to explore the surrounding neighborhoods, where they will discover events such as Monomachi.
The event runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and continues until May 27 at 2k540 AKi-Oka Artisan.
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