VIDEO: Exploring Japan: Head to Tokyo's Shin-Okubo for a walk in Seoul

Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi
Photos by Takahiro Takiguchi

VIDEO: Exploring Japan: Head to Tokyo's Shin-Okubo for a walk in Seoul

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

If you want to experience Seoul without taking a trip to South Korea, visit Shin-Okubo in Tokyo.

As soon as I walked out of JR Shin-Okubo Station, the numerous colorful signboards written in Hangul, the smell of yakiniku and people speaking Korean made me wonder if I was still in Japan.

During my walk around the district, I noticed that much of the crowd consisted of young women enjoying Korean street food and shopping the K-beauty shops lining the main road. Korean cosmetics are known worldwide for their high-quality and reasonable prices. Just Google “snail cream” and you’ll see what you are missing!

The district is also home to a few Korean supermarkets like Seoul Market, where you can buy many ingredients and cookware to create delicious Korean food at home.

I stopped in at Tonchang near the train station for a tasty samgyeopsal (three-layered pork) lunch set for the low price of 1,000 yen (about $7.50). The restaurant staff barbecued the pork right at my table. The flavorful and tender pork was delectable and took me back to my last visit to Seoul about 10 years ago.

Shin-Okubo is a relatively new Korea town. When Japan opened its doors to foreign students and laborers in the 1980s, many of the Korean immigrants, who were referred to as “newcomers,” flocked to this town because of its cheap rent and willingness of landlords to accept foreign tenants.

In 2002, when Japan and South Korea co-hosted the FIFA World Cup, many Koreans came over to Japan to watch the games, including Korean businessmen who saw an opportunity to promote Korean products and culture in Japan. With the popularity of Korean movies and K-pop music, Shin-Okubo continues to grow in size and popularity.

In the center of Shin-Okubo, there is Kaichu Inari, a Shinto shrine with an interesting legend. According to local lore, an Edo Era (1603-1867) sniper worshipped at this shrine and never missed his target when shooting his rifle. Since then, the shrine has become a place for those seeking luck in games, gambling and competitions.

Take a little time and explore Shin-Okubo, where you’ll feel like you’re in Seoul without leaving Tokyo.

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