Forever 21? Old Ladies Harajuku- Sugamo,Tokyo

With a fashion crazy city like Tokyo, it’s quite hard to keep up with the ever changing trend and to even try your best to somehow adapt to their unique and often eclectic style. Shibuya and Harajuku are two of these famous places for the trendy youth while Omotesando and Ginza are for the rich and brand conscious. So, how about the grandparents who most often rely on their pensions for daily living, where will they shop?  Or will they just wait for one of their sons or daughters to remember and maybe buy them something new to wear for Christmas?

Just imagine how hard it must be for the elderly living in this city when everything for sale at the malls surrounding most JR stations are either sky-high heels and skimpy trousers. It’s kind of depressing to think that when you reach that certain age, you will not be able to enjoy purchasing stuff for yourself like you used to do. To have that power to choose between a white or a black blouse and choose the best accessory to go with it  is not a matter of vanity anymore but a self fulfillment of being able to decide something for yourself.

Good thing there is Jizo Dori Street at Sugamo, Tokyo. Branded as the Old Ladies Harajuku, Sugamo is a 800m long handicapped accessible shopping strip which caters nonetheless for the oldies and everything they need. With over 200 shops selling clothes, hats, socks, umbrellas, traditional food and coffee shops in between, the prices at Jizo Dori is cheap enough for anyone living on pension to enjoy a day of shopping.

The shopping strip is known for its signature red underwear, which comes in variety of style at price range of 500 to 1000 Yen per piece. It is believed that the red granny pants will bring luck and good health to the wearer. I consider buying one for my mom but was having second thoughts if she will wear it or not.

Obviously, Jizo-Dori strip is way, way less crowded than Harajuku’s Takeshita Dori, which makes for a relaxing atmosphere. There was this popular TV personality on cycling pants,  doing some random interview. He must be a kind of funny guy as most people can’t help but laugh or run away whenever they see him.  I later found out from a colleague  that his name is Egashira and his brand of comedy is “shock-value, Jackass type”. Quite contrary to his type of funny, he seems to be an over-all nice guy entertaining anyone who wants his picture or photograph.

At the middle of the shopping strip is the original reason for Sugamo’s popularity – Koganji Temple. With the statue of Jizo Bodhisattva, the temple is often crowded with believers that the statue can help to heal illness.

I was sitting at the coffee shop along the strip and can’t help but smile whenever I see a group of elderly enjoying their day either having an afternoon tea or just ransacking the nearby winter sale. I feel like I was having a moment of enlightenment. Being on that strip on a Sunday afternoon has open my mind to the fact that aging is real and not limited to handful of individual we’ve seen or known, like that slow person walking in front at the train station. It is something that I will face, need to come to terms to, and if blessed something that I hope to enjoy gracefully.  Like many others, I equivalent old age to death but Jizo Dori is such an epiphany that yes, the day will come where Forever 21 dress will no longer suit me but it doesn’t mean that life has to stop.


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