Signs for 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan were hung on the side of the train underpass so I shouldn’t have been surprised that the shops were literally under the JR Yamanote line train tracks. After ducking into one of the paved entranceways, I was greeted by white vaulted ceilings and the name of the shopping street painted on the pavement.
In order to fully understand the shopping street’s name, 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan, we need to break it up into parts. The first section, “2k540,” stands for 2.54 kilometers, which is the distance of this artisan street from Tokyo Station.
Secondly, “Aki-Oka” is a shortening of “Akihabara Station” and “Okachimachi Station,” the two stations that sandwich the artisan center. Lastly, “Artisan” encompasses the main purpose of the entire complex: to recreate the traditional craftsmen’s town that existed in Edo-era Okachimachi by showcasing and selling the work of modern-day artisans.
My first pass through 2k540 was just to peek into the windows of each shop. At the end of the walkway, I entered a shop called Toumei. As indicated by the shop’s name, which is Japanese for “transparent,” most of the products were made of see-through materials. One item in particular stood out: a coaster with plastic plankton floating inside. Perfect for my microstructure-studying boyfriend.
Each shop I entered, I found myself wishing Christmas were closer. My art-school sister would probably appreciate a quirky vinyl doll from Uamou. That steel-cut cat figure from Createtsu would be great for my feline-loving mom. A little selfishly, I started mentally calculating how I could justify buying the gorgeous “sacred wing”-design necklace from Largesk as a present for myself.
Every few shops, an artisan at work would catch my eye. In front of Takumi no Hako, a man concentrated on a small piece of woodwork while curious shoppers looked on. In a shop for temporary exhibits, a woodblock printer demonstrated his technique, surrounded by the works of other artisans from the Tokyo Traditional Woodblock Print Cooperative.
Visitors looking to get their own hands dirty will be interested in the reasonably priced traditional craft workshops offered at 2k540. Previous workshops at 2k520 have included a knitting class that used handwoven thread, a painting class that made cat-theme accessories, and an incense-creation class.
After a long afternoon of admiring the work of present-day artisans, I was ready for a hot drink at 2k540’s Café Asan. A formidable line had formed outside the café, but a glimpse of the hammocks inside was enough to convince me that I’d be back to get some Christmas shopping done and then eat Café Asan’s fruit pancakes while swinging from the ceiling.
2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan
Hours: 11:00 – 19:00, every day except Wednesdays
Address: 5 Chome-9 Ueno, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 110-0005 (under the train tracks between Akihabara Station and Okachimachi Station)
2k540 Google Map