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Around Town Tokyo! – Kinshicho Station ( JR Sobu Line )

Around Town Tokyo! – Kinshicho Station ( JR Sobu Line )
April 1, 2018 wfire3

Around Town Tokyo! – Kinshicho Station ( JR Sobu Line )


The Station

Kinshicho Station is part of the Sumida Ward in Tokyo, which is also one of the major transfer hubs between Tokyo and Chiba Prefectures. First opened on 9 December 1894, the station is operated by JR East Railways and services both the JR Chuo-Sobu Line heading towards Chiba as well as the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line which runs through most of the major hotspots in central Tokyo.

Kinshicho Station has 2 main exits. The North Exit and the South Exit. And just as their names would suggest, the two exits used to be polar opposites in terms of what you would find while exiting either side!

The Area

Kinshicho is a large commercial node in the “shitamachi” (downtown) area on the east side of Tokyo. One of Tokyo’s seven official “fukutoshin” (sub-metropolitan centers), and located in the still-developing center of Sumida ward; Kinshicho is home to one of the largest shopping areas on the east side, sporting many large department stores, smaller shops, izakayas, cafes and other small eating places crammed into the tiny, narrow, side streets nearby.

In terms of atmosphere, Kinshicho is has a down-to-earth vibe with a more low-key, relaxed and, rough-around-the-edges feel to it in certain places. This area used to be well known for it`s multiple “red light” districts.

The Shady side of Kinshicho Station ( The South Exit )
While the North Exit of Kinshicho Station was known as a “granny`s hangout spot” due to its many shops and restaurants, the South Exit of Kinshicho Station was once full of booze, sex houses, horse races, gambling, and other less sophisticated entertainment alternatives. The area was popular for its night scene and for being a favorite hangout for lecherous old guys and salarymen heading home from work who were looking to dip their toes into something a little more… exotic.

Although not as grandiose as other well-known red-light districts in Tokyo, like Roppongi or Kabukicho Street, Kinshicho was no slouch for holding its own in the “dirty entertainment” industry.  Often importing young girls from many other Asian countries to serve as prostitutes or mistresses to Japanese salarymen. Sex and gambling were a daily practice and a major contributor to the area’s economy for quite some time. That is, until quite recently. While shady entertainment is still a part of the area`s night culture and there is no shortage of erotic entertainment options farther way from the station like snack bars (places where you can hang out with young girls while singing karaoke and drinking all night) and love hotels (places for discreet, exotic sexual encounters that are open most hours of the day), you`ll find that things have scaled-down quite a lot in the past few years.

Since the construction of Tokyo Sky tree nearby, the Japanese government has started to focus on cleaning up and developing the areas on both sides of the station in order to attract new businesses to the area. You`ll notice a lot of apartment complexes, shopping centers, and new entertainment places springing up around the station which are designed to lure younger couples, families, and foreigners to the area.

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While Kinshicho held its roots as an “old people`s paradise” for quite some time and was (still is) full of old mom-n-pop stores with family-run businesses dating all the way back to the Edo Period There are many apartment complexes, residential areas, shopping complexes, and parks surrounding Kinshicho Station, with more springing up each month.

Part of this is due to Tokyo Sky Tree nearby and the other part is due to the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. But even though the area is undergoing a lot of major development right now, you`ll find that apartment renting prices are still a bit cheaper and surprisingly reasonable for a downtown Tokyo area. This becomes more true the further you get away from the station.

Also, since the station is serviced by the JR East Chuo-Sobu Line as well as the Hanzomon Line on Metro, the area is quite easy to reach from either central Tokyo or Chiba. Traveling from Kinshicho Station to Funabashi Station in Chiba gives you easy access to the rest of Chiba Prefecture, including Maihama, where Tokyo Disney Land is located.

There are even buses and trains that run straight to Tokyo Station & Narita Airport! This is very good news for people who are working in Tokyo but want to live in less crowded (and cheaper) areas to the north or east side of Tokyo.

But that`s not all. Kinshicho not only has quite a friendly environment that provides a lot of conveniences to young Japanese workers and families but because of it`s rather shady past, Kishicho is also very well adapted to coexisting with foreigners.

Perhaps one of the more “foreigner-friendly” places in Tokyo with an unusually curious but natural vibe, you`ll find that there is an international mix of people happily hanging out and shopping around the station at any given hour of the day. The residents around this station are generally quite friendly, curious, and welcoming to people of different nationalities (to the point of just walking up and speaking to you or inviting you out for a beer – as you can see in the video above), so Kinshicho is a pretty chilled spot to relax on most days.

Due to the large number of schools in the area, both Japanese and international, as well as high school and college students who have to commute through Kinshicho Station every morning, the station is a popular hangout spot for young people of all ages at any given part of the day. Usually found in shopping centers, studying in Starbuck Cafes, watching movies at the nearby cinemas, or playing video games in the arcades, these students tend to view Kinschicho as a safe spot for having fun. They don`t bother anyone, and nobody bothers them for the most part.

This makes Kinshicho a hotspot for dating.

There`s a pretty interesting dynamic at work here because even though the area around the station is developing at a fast rate, Kinshicho is not a place that invites a whole lot of trouble for some reason. The older and more traditionally-minded residents of this area are pretty proactive when it comes to stopping problems before they start and there is a police station literally 30 seconds away from the station. But you rarely hear of any major incidents or trouble in this area as one might expect, so it seems like everyone in the area pretty much just wants to relax, have fun, and go home by the end of the night.

Speaking of night, Kinshicho station is pretty empty once the last trains run through it! You might find some stragglers, but I guess because of the easy access most people either go home, hit one of the local bars or find someone to snuggle up within one of the hotels nearby.

Work & Business

Once again, the power of Tokyo Sky Tree shines through! Although Kinshcicho is one of the fukutoshin and was a well-known shopping district, it wasn`t really a major business center until the construction of the new landmark. There were many small shops and mom-n-pop stores nearby, with a few major businesses, but that wasn`t the real purpose of the area.

Once Sky tree arrived in Oshiage Station, that all changed. Since then, many new businesses and international companies have started to flood into the area, including a few popular global investment banks, insurance, and technology companies. This means that employment opportunities for both Japanese and foreigners in the area are steadily on the rise. Kinshicho is expecting a large influx of foreigners heading to Japan during the 2020 Olympics, and the Japanese government is currently doing it`s best to entice skilled foreign laborers to stay in Japan due to an increasingly aging Japanese population.

This area currently good for startup companies and small businesses who may be looking to move to Japan due to the fact that land prices and space rentals are quite reasonable (at the moment) considering it`s Tokyo. There`s also quite a bit of available space in the area right now due to the fact that a lot of places are still under construction. The “boom” hasn`t hit just yet as it will once construction is completed, so now is a pretty good time to go shopping for office rental spaces.

Entertainment & Things to Do!

While Kinshicho has a toned-down but naughty nightlife reputation, there`s actually quite a bit of new and legitimate entertainment in the area. These places are mostly gathered on the north and east sides of the station, while the immediate South Exit and areas west of it tend to feature more shopping, bars, gambling, restaurants, and izakayas.

Termina Department Store

Kinshicho Station itself is home to the Termina Department Store, which has 7 floors of shops, restaurants, and even a golf course conveniently located right above the Chuo-Sobu Train Line. the first 3 floors of this shopping center are occupied by the popular and convenient Yodobashi Camera electronics megastore, where you can buy anything you need from batteries to computers, and toys! This store is usually open from 9:30 am to 10:00 pm, so it`s a real lifesaver for commuters.

You don`t want to stay inside of the station all day? That`s fair, even though you probably could.

The South Exit

If you want to check out the south and east sides of the station during the daytime, you`ll notice a large Marui Department Store across the street and directly in front of you. It`s mainly a department store and has a lot of shops, but not so much fun entertainment per se. You can find some karaoke places and izakayas along that street as well which are close to the station. However, the area directly behind the Marui Department Store is where you`ll find Kinshicho getting back to its old habits of gambling, horse racing, love hotels, and other late-night dishes best preserved for after 7 pm.

Looking to your left from the South Exit, you`ll see another department store called Livin. Again, more shops, but there`s also a 24 Hour Sports Center, an old movie cinema, and even a video game arcade downstairs in the building.

If you want to go right from the South Exit, you`ll immediately notice a street with a strange-looking archway. Heading down this street takes you to what used to be (and still is slightly) one of the “red” areas of Kinshicho Station. This small side street was once full of snack bars, kabakura, and brothels that were only a 5-minute walk from the station. Now, the area is mostly cleaned up, with the exception of a few shops, and they are replacing the old brothels with legitimate businesses such as convenience stores, eateries, and pachinko parlors.


The North Exit

Exiting the North side of the station, you`ll immediately notice a hanging donut-looking sculpture. I had no clue what that was, but after asking around, some of the older people told me that it has something to do with Kinshicho`s musical history. I still have no clue what they`re talking about, but apparently, Kinshicho was popular for music at some point.

However, beyond the “donut-music-thing” you`ll notice a street full of shops, pachinko parlors, cafes, and international food shops. Walking down the main street in front of you, you`ll notice that the side streets are also lined with the same in addition to some cheap clothing stores. The further you get away from the station, on the north side, the more these clothing stores stand out and you`ll find some of the quieter local pubs, which are more reserved than what you`ll find on the southern (party) side.

But if you don`t want to cross the street directly in front of the North Exit, that`s fine. Simply turn to your left and you`ll see the Arcakit Shopping Building. The South Exit has developed into the more “family-friendly” side of the station, with lots of expensive brand name stores, kids’ clothing stores, cafes, and eateries, plus more office spaces.

If you`re hanging out in this area and are tired of shopping, you`ll probably want to turn right from the North Exit and head that way. Here you`ll start to find more low-key and family-oriented entertainment places. there`s a Lotte Plaza, which has a Tsutaya Video Rental, Book Off (recycled books, video games, and anime goods) Store, and a British Pub – all of which is connected via an underground passageway to the Hanzomon Line. There are also some small pubs and places to eat directly under the railway tracks.

From Lotte Plaza, if you turn left and walk straight, you`ll see 3 things: Kinshicho Park, Olinas Shopping Center, and Tokyo Sky Tree in the background. That tells you how close you are to the Solamachi (another popular shopping spot in the area).

Kinshicho Park was recently torn down and redeveloped to be more spacious and include a lot of family-oriented activities due to the construction of the new Olinas Shopping Center. This park has a very wide area for relaxing, reading, laying down on the grass, drinking and watching sakura (cherry tree blossoms) in the spring season.  It even has a few large play areas for kids as well as a place for pets!

Right next to the park is a large and newly built Sports Center, where you can train, lift weights, go swimming, play basketball, or even practice martial arts like Karate, Judo, and Kendo. There is also a Big Echo Karaoke place nearby for those of you who like to sing. The area around the park provides a nice view of Sky Tree and Onlinas Shopping Center.

The Onlinas Shopping Mall has 4 floors (plus a basement) full of family-friendly stores, which include brand name shops, Babies `R` Us, food courts, restaurants, Baskin Robbins Ice Cream, as well as some outdoor and sporting goods equipment shops. The building also holds a large Toho Cinemas Theater for moviegoers and a Taito Video Game Arcade in the basement. Believe me, this mall has plenty of stuff to do!

This building also houses some corporate offices.

The Food

There are a ton of food places around Kinshicho Station. Like, you could literally walk 5 ~ 10 paces and be standing in front of another food shop. It`s that easy!

But the good thing about Kinshicho is the variety of food shops that the area has to offer! You have everything from traditional Japanese foods (such as sushi, sashimi, ramen, okonomiyaki) nearby to Thai, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese restaurants, all located within 2 – 5 minutes walking distance of the station. Of course, they also have American restaurants and fast-food places like Burger King if you want something quick and on-the-go.

Another great thing about Kinshicho though is that the area is also home to a lot of small international food markets, where people can buy usually hard-to-find ingredients from different countries in order to cook their own meals. There are popular Korean, Chinese and Indian markets that sell spices and food ingredients used for cooking that you would usually have to head out to places like Ueno`s Ameyoko Shopping Street to find. Most of these little markets are hidden away in the side streets away from the station, but if you can find them, the prices are quite reasonable and they have a surprisingly large variety of goods!


So, if you are thinking about traveling to Japan but are looking for a nice, low-key, convenient spot to hang out so that you can do some shopping and at the same time grab a taste of traditional Japanese downtown culture mixed with a little international flair, then Kinshicho Station is your place to be. It`s got tradition, it`s got style, it`s got the convenience of location and transportation between key parts of Tokyo and Chiba, and it`s got a Japanese-international vibe all of its own.

Stop by and check it out!

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