In Sendai, as in any big town, there are multiple subworlds, unknown to those who live outside them. Some of these worlds are hardly accessible, but some are actually here at your hand, but they go unnoticed by those who happened to be in Sendai because of their studies or job.
Just few steps from the Ichibancho subway station, there is a nostalgic and at the same time very up-to-date little world, that could be used as a metaphor for modern Japan. Of course, I mean Iroha yokocho.
This place was born on the ruins of post-war Sendai. The Second World War was over, and people of Sendai were eager to get back to the peaceful life they were used to. That was a start for Iroha-yokocho - first in a form of a public market, where delicious food and stylish items could have been purchased again, after the forced asceticism of the wartime. The place was changing with time, adapting to the needs of every generation. Countless shops, bars, restaurants and eat-ins have opened their doors and disappeared without a trace, until finally our familiar Iroha-yokocho was formed. It is filled with the progressive and free spirit of the later Showa age and now stands ready to change again, reshaped by the generations that came afterwards.
Maybe this is the reason why Iroha-yokocho reminds me of the other worlds’ backgrounds from Doctor Who - timeless, resembling thousands of places I have seen before and yet different from any place I have ever visited. Traditional Japanese restaurant can become a neighbor to Showa-style izakaya (Japanese bar), or some pretty-looking pizzeria, or a small shop with charming tiny statuettes in the window, and everything is so close, forming a surprising harmony, as the only reason why all these shops are here today is because we need them. Like a small model of Sendai itself, traditional, nostalgic, international and constantly changing.
In the middle of these two alleys, there is a water reservoir with a mosaic - a friendly-looking dragon made of ceramic squares and crystal balls. I like to think about this creature as a guardian deity of Iroha-yokocho. Happy to see us all, happy to play and spend an evening full of tasty food and good sake and beer - this is Iroha-yokocho.
And this is our Sendai as well.
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