Sugamo: A friendly community for Japan’s elderly

Despite being the world’s current 11th most populous country in the world, Japan has been experiencing a population decline. In 2015, Japanese citizens who are aged 65 years and above comprise 26.7% of the population (which means that one in every four people in Japan is elderly), and this figure is expected to still increase to 33.3% by 2036, and 38.4% by 2065. With a ballooning aging community, Japan corresponds to the needs of the changing demographics of their citizenry. Sugamo Jizou-Dori is an example of this.

Sugamo is an area in Tokyo, particularly located along the Old Nakasendo Road, that is known to be the “hangout” of Japanese elderly people. It is an area that is approximately 780 meters in length with almost 170 stores and shops lining up the whole stretch of the street. It is a five-minute walk from the nearest station, the Sugamo Station on the JR Yamanote line. As it is a shopping district catering to the elderly, it is frequently paralleled with the youngsters’ shopping area (called Harajuku), thereby gaining its moniker, the “Old Ladies’ Harajuku”.

The slow-paced and elderly-friendly community is indeed the place to be for the Japan’s elderly. Boasting a variety of shops, this place has become a one-stop shop for the old people that already face limitations in their mobility. In this place, one can find traditional snacks, sweets and drinks, health-related items, clothes, and some restaurants. The popularity of the place is also attributable to the presence of the Koganji Temple that houses the famous Togenuki Jizo statue that is said to be a remedy for illnesses. Furthermore, the ambience of Sugamo is very friendly to the elderly – one could easily see a seller having a convivial conversation with his/her clients.

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A community for Japanese elderly. Picture: © Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo.
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Traditional tableware. Picture: © Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo.
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Japanese couple buying some goods. Picture: © Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo.
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Various traditional items. Picture: © Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo.
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Typical Japanese restaurant. Picture: © Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo.
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Traditional wooden products. Picture: © Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo.
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Variants of Japanese tea. Picture: © Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo.
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End of Sugamo street. Picture: © Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo.
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Making dried food. Picture: © Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo.
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Selling green tea. Picture: © Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo.
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Koganji temple. Picture: © Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo.
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Facade of a restaurant. Picture: © Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo.
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Selling dried food. Picture: © Maria Pilar M. Lorenzo.
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