One of the locations my book takes place in, is Ogikubo, a suburb of Tokyo. While not a lot of action happens in Ogikubo itself, it is the home of Yue, a main character in the book.
When researching locales, I came across Ogikubo as an affordable, peaceful neighborhood to live in. It seemed like a perfect fit. Yue has had enough “events” in her life by the time we meet her in the book, so she’s ready to settle into some place nice and peaceful. The majority of shopping in the neighborhood focuses around three connected department stores, Town Seven, Lumine, and Seiyu. Seiyu is essentially a Japanese Wal-Mart, which makes sense, because they’re owned by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc… Even the interiors look similar, except with red and yellow, rather than blue and yellow decor.
Once upon a time, Ogikubo was an upscale neighborhood, with lots of wealthy residents calling it home. However, the 60s were a tumultuous time for Japan, with a strong surge of youthful counterculture and activism. The mark that Japanese youth left on Ogikubo is apparent still today; in between upscale apartment buildings and fantastic antique shops (it’s really a great place to go antiquing!), you’ll find laid back cafes and rowdy clubs with life music every night. It’s an eclectic, but safe and generally peaceful neighborhood.
If Ogikubo is so laid back, and just a mix of ‘young and old’, then what claim to fame does it have? Well, that would be the ramen! Ogikubo is considered “the birthplace of Tokyo ramen”. Traditional ramen stock is usually made by boiling pork bone, while ramen in Ogikubo is made by boiling fish bones. There are still ramen shops in Ogikubo that opened as far back as the 1930s!
Soon, I’ll be writing about some more “popular” locales, like Shibuya, and the primary locale of much of Golden Week’s action, Meguro.