The sprawling stalls have become especially famous for the traditional prepared foods of the New Year, and, during the last few days of December, as many as half a million people crowd into the narrow alleys under the railroad tracks to stock up for the holiday. The market dates to World War II, when not much besides Ueno Station survived the bombings. Anyone who could make it here from the countryside with rice and other small supplies of food could sell them at exorbitant black-market prices. Sugar was a commodity that couldn't be found at any price in postwar Tokyo. Before long, there were hundreds of stalls in the black market selling various kinds of ame (confections), most made from sweet potatoes. These stalls gave the market its name, Ame-ya Yoko-cho (often shortened to Ameyoko), which means "Confectioners' Alley." Shortly before the Korean War, the market was legalized, and soon the stalls were carrying watches, chocolate, ballpoint pens, blue jeans, and T-shirts that
had somehow been "liberated" from American PXs. In years to come the merchants of Ameyoko diversified even further—to fine Swiss timepieces and fake designer luggage, cosmetics, jewelry, fresh fruit, and fish. For a break, the area also features numerous small restaurants specializing in raw slices of tuna over rice (maguro-don)—cheap, quick, and very good.