Visit the Locals of Itabashi’s Oyama Happy Road
Join us today as we take a look at Itabashi’s Oyama Happy Road—truly a place with a friendly atmosphere all its own. Showcased are some of the passionate locals who are the driving force that sustains the retro shopping district.
Oyama is just five minutes from Ikebukuro on the Tobu Tojo Line. Step outside the train station and be immediately immersed by the sound of radio hits flooding from the shopping street speakers as workers urge passersby to step into their stores.
Eat Gyoza at Tenohira Gyoza Ra Ku Yu
Come to a fork in the shopping road, and literally be greeted by a large fork, held by a petite woman singing a song about her delicious gyoza. Follow her down a short, narrow pathway and find yourself standing in front of a tiny gyoza stand that sells a variety of unique gyoza.
This is Tenohira Gyoza Ra Ku Yu, run by the one and only Toshie Nagaoka. The store’s name, which means “palm-sized gyoza,” comes from her popular large gyoza—equivalent to eight regular-sized gyoza.
Nagaoka is a newcomer to the neighborhood, opening her store in spring 2018, but the taste she cooks up is not new. She ran a popular restaurant in her home prefecture, Tochigi, before deciding to try her shot in the big city. Her enthusiastic, kind, unapologetic nature and exceptional cooking have earned her many regular customers, as well as the approval of curious foodies and a permanent spot on Happy Road.
In her small shop, which seats only four or five guests at a time, Nagaoka sells an average of 200 gyoza each day. She often gives customers an extra or two to take home. But her goal isn’t to sell her goods. “I’m selling trust,” she says. “It’s important for me to build trust with my customers, with this neighborhood. By building these relationships, more people will come to enjoy my gyoza.”
She’ll urge a beer on you, too. And how could you not accept? With her fascinating life story, you may have dropped by for a quick bite but are bound to end up staying for hours. Visit in the daytime for relaxing conversation, or come in the evening to see a roaring crowd pouring out into the street.
Nagaoka says that managing a shop on her own is hard work, but the people she gets to meet through her job is what makes her the happiest.
Address: 32-2 Oyamacho, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo 173-0023
Hours: 11:30–14:00; 17:00–22:00
Sip Green Tea and Eat Fluffy Shaved Ice in the Company of a Dog at Oyama-En
Oyama-En is a tea shop that opened in 1951. Through this store, over the course of three generations the Ohara family have brought some of the best green teas to Tokyo from Kakegawa, in the well-known tea region of Shizuoka Prefecture.
Five years ago, the tea shop expanded to add a little café in the back where customers can enjoy traditional green tea and matcha (powered green tea leaves) paired with wagashi (Japanese confectioneries), soft-serve ice cream, and a summer classic: kakigori (shaved ice). The wagashi are served in partnership with a nearby confectionery shop, Sakurado, and change in design with the seasons.
The kakigori? That’s another unusual story. The blocks of ice used to make the kakigori are frozen with top-notch green tea leaves or strawberries mixed in. These blocks are then shaved down to produce the fluffiest, most delicately powdered kakigori. Paired perfectly with cold teas, they’re a must-have on Tokyo’s hot and humid days.
While taking a break for teatime, step up to the art challenge and color in a picture of the shop’s front man—or front dog—Cook. A sweet 12-year-old French Bulldog that sits by the entrance, Cook greets customers and gets showered with belly rubs by his neighborhood friends, both human and canine. Customers who color in a picture of him get a special gift to take home.
The Ohara family stays active in the community by organizing workshops and events for Happy Road, and by offering a space for sweet treats and smiles—mostly thanks to Cook.
Address: 6-8 Oyamacho, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo 173-0023
Hours: 10:00–20:00 (last order 19:00)
Take a Souvenir Home from Toretate Mura
Stop by Toretate Mura to pick up domestically grown and made goods. The direct produce store is run by the Oyama Happy Road Shotengai Promotion Association and their most popular section is that selling rice from various regions of Japan. All varieties can be bought in bulk. Toretate Mura continuously brings in the season’s harvest from around the country, including a wide variety of tomatoes, vegetables, and pickled goods made by local moms and pops.
Be sure to buy some fresh goods to cook up a meal or take home some souvenir snacks and sake sold here. Currently, most of the customers are older locals, but the store’s hope is to attract younger generations and help them experience the true taste of Japan.
Address: 27-9 Oyamacho, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo 173-0023
Meet Oyama Happy Road’s Unique and Welcoming Individuals at Machizemi
Every year, Happy Road also hosts Machizemi, a month full of seminars and workshops at which visitors can learn, create, and play with local shop owners and community members.
Experiences and topics include:
- Tea tasting
- Jewelry and bath bomb making
- Dancing and cooking
- Learning the history and culture of the neighborhood
Participation is all free (for some classes and experiences the cost of materials may be required)!
The Machizemi is already over for this year, but be sure to check their website and take part in the fun next time. You are sure to find an event that puts you in touch with the unique warmth of Oyama Happy Road and the people who make it such a special place to visit.
Oyama Happy Road
This article was written by Nina CataldoBack