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Tokyo’s Pedestrian Paradises

Spring is back and that means the opening of the pedestrian only streets. Lynn Allmon explores the three most well-known pedestrian paradises in Tokyo.

By 3 min read 6

Finally, spring has graced Tokyo with its presence. Evenings may still require a coat, but afternoons are warm enough to walk around outside with just a light jacket between you and the atmosphere. Some may be content to spend their free afternoons this spring exploring Tokyo by walking along the sidewalks. For those who aren’t content with only sidewalks, Tokyo has another option: Pedestrian Paradises.

The Japanese word for these majestic once-a-week occurrences is 歩行者天国 (hokousha tengoku). If you want to sound hip, you can used the shortened version, ホコ天 (hokoten). Of course, you could just use the English word “pedestrian zone” or “pedestrian mall,” but those don’t have quite the same impact was “pedestrian paradise.”

Pedestrian paradises are truly havens for pedestrians, with rules in place meant to make walking safer and more enjoyable. The streets designated as a pedestrian paradises are closed to cars, and activities such as riding bicycles, holding performances, and passing out fliers are prohibited.

Occasionally, however, you might encounter promotional activities, cosplayers, and photo shoots. The police diligently patrol these areas, though, so I wouldn’t try any of these activities without permission or without at least a willingness to apologize out the nose if the police come up to you.

The three most well-known pedestrian paradises in Tokyo occur almost every weekend on a specific day and at a specific time. If you want to enjoy taking a walk without worrying about cars or being accosted by tissue pushers, take a trip down to one of these streets.

Akihabara’s Pedestrian Paradise

Day: Sunday
Time: April to September, 1pm to 6pm
October to March, 1pm to 5pm
Location: Chuo-dori, from Sotokanda 5-chome crossing to Manseibashi crossing (about 570 meters) [map]

Akihabara, Tokyo’s Electric City, is attractive for its electronics and more recently for anime goods. Standing just off to the side of the pedestrian paradise, women in maid costumes can be seen handing out advertisements for their respective maid cafes. Don Quijote, the shop that has just about everything, towers over Akihabara’s pedestrian paradise while other smaller shops selling manga, cameras and army surplus line the street.

Ginza’s Pedestrian Paradise

Day: Saturday, Sunday, holidays
Time: April to September, noon to 6pm
October to March, noon to 5pm
Location: Ginza-dori, from Ginza-dori guchi crossing to Ginza 8-chome crossing (about 1100 meters) [map]

Ginza Station exit A7 is known as the “Lion Statue Exit” and will lead you straight to both Ginza’s pedestrian paradise and, not unexpectedly, a lion statue. According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police website, Ginza’s pedestrian paradise was started in September 1970 and is the oldest pedestrian paradise in Tokyo. You can find plenty of upscale department stores and luxury goods here, but less-expensive stores such as H&M, Gap and Uniqlo have made their way to Ginza’s shimmering streets.

Shinjuku’s Pedestrian Paradise

Day: Sunday, holidays
Time: April to September, noon to 6pm
October to March, noon to 5pm
Location: Shinjuku 3-chome [map]

On the east side of Tokyo, you can find Shinjuku’s pedestrian paradise. Shinjuku is an interesting mix, with a skyscraper district on one side of the station and an entertainment district on the other. Unsurprisingly, Shinjuku’s pedestrian paradise is right in the middle of the entertainment district, 3-chome (pronounced “sanchome”). The pedestrian paradise in Shinjuku is different from those in Ginza and Akihabara in that it encompasses several roads instead of just one main road. This area has plenty of both cheap and expensive restaurants, small spas, and inexpensive shops.

Have you been to any of these pedestrian paradises? Which one would you like to visit?

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  • Tess de la Serna says:

    Thanks for the article!

  • Denny Aryadi says:

    Yes, we need more event such as this “Car Free Day” which is really could accommodate pedestrian in their leisure time to take a stroll not only at the sidewalk but also even on the road peacefully.

    Compared to Japan CFD locations above, the duration of CFD event in most of Indonesian city is quiet limited. It starts from 7-10AM. I wish it could be a little longer. Haha!

    Thanks for the article! It’s nice knowing that Japan also has pedestrian paradise to be explored.

    • Lynn says:

      I do really like the idea of closing down a road every once in a while, particularly in an area that would get a lot of foot traffic.

      That’s interesting about the 7am-10am CFD. I wonder why it is so early in the morning. Do lots of people take morning walks?

      • Denny Aryadi says:

        Well, most of Indonesian, especially the Moslem one always woke up earlier to do their morning pray around 5AM and start their morning chores just right after that. So there is no time to go to bed again. I think it would be a waste of time.

        But perhaps that is not the case though. Even many traditional market seller already opened their shop around 3AM!

        When I told my Japanese friend that I always woke up every 6AM, he asked me whether I really get enough sleep. Haha! I don’t know if its only happen in Indonesia but I think you will probably bemused when you find out Indonesian CFD already flooded with human in the early morning.

        The picture below is one of local CFD in my city, located in Dago, Bandung.

        • Lynn says:

          I’ve learned a lot from you — thanks!

          I really am surprised that traditional shops open at 3am. So early! I think the only places open in the US or Japan at that time are the convenience stores. I’d probably ask the same thing as your Japanese friend haha.

          The photo of the local CFD is awesome. I especially like all the greenery.

          • Denny Aryadi says:

            You’re welcome. I also learned a lot about Japan from GaijinPot awesome posts, thanks to you guys!

            Feel free to visit Indonesia. Probably I’ll be your host when you visit Bandung. You will fall in love with Bandung if you really into culinary and greenery.



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