By Karin Wu
In the heart of Shibuya, among the neon lights, karaoke boxes, love hotels and all the other weird stuff the area is packed with, there is a peculiar little street called in Udagawa-cho, popularly known as Supein-zaka ("Spanish Hill").
It is said that the nickname comes from its resemblance to a typically Spanish street (well, that's what they say). Some Tokyo-ites, however, claim that the name "Spanish Hill" actually comes from Rome's Piazza di Spagna because, apparently, the stairs in this street are similar to the Spanish Steps, but let's move on and pretend like this theory doesn't exist.
I had already heard of this street before my trip to Japan, back in Madrid, but I was never particularly interested in it. Anyways, I was wandering through the neighborhood yesterday at around 6pm, killing time because I wanted to see Shibuya at night, when I stumbled upon this tiny street by chance, so I decided to take a look.
Supeinzaka starts in Inokashira, goes up a little hill, and finishes 100 meters later, so there's not much to see, actually. If you pay attention to the details, you will notice a little sign close to the ground that says "Spain-zaka" and that's the only kind of explanation concerning the Spanishness of the street that you will see.
So, what will you find here? More or less the same things you will encounter anywhere else in Shibuya or Tokyo in general. A t-shirt / socks / sunglasses / transparent umbrellas /pretty-much-everything shop, a Crocs store, women clothes and lingerie businesses... but also a French Bistro, an Italian pizzeria and a cozy café-bar. These, along with the cobblestones and plants which decorate the street from beginning to end, giving it a slight Andalusian feel, do give Supein-zaka a charming feel that sets it apart from many of the surrounding streets.
Naturally, there is a Spanish-themed restaurant called Vidrio ("Glass") with a fluttering Spanish flag outside for emphasis. Among its menu items you will find traditional Iberian dishes such as tortilla and paella, but pay close attention because this restaurant is not exactly cheap.
At the end (or the beginning, depending on where you start) of Supeinzaka, one of Spain's biggest exports, a huge, green, noisy and over-crowded six-floor Bershka store, awaits. I took shelter from a sudden downpour, and, it turns out that the view from up there is quite nice on a rainy day.
So, does Supein-zaka really resemble a Spanish Street? Well, no. If it was Spain, the ground would be covered with in tranmped in gum dots and there would be at least one group of people arguing about football. Anyways. Mediterranean or not, Supein-zaka is a nice spot and something of an oasis in the mad rush of Shibuya.
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