Have you heard about Yanaka Ginza?
It’s a suburb in the heart of Nippori, an area in the North-East of Tokyo.
It’s only 10 minutes away from Ueno, Akihabara and popular areas, but surprisingly many people don’t know about this little gem in Tokyo.
Even among the local Japanese people, a very few residents seem to know about it!
In Japanese we call this kind of place “Shitamachi“. The meaning is close to “downtown“: a place which retains his old feeling and seems like coming from the past.
It’s actually one of the rare part of Tokyo preserved from the WWII bombings. The Edo-style historic buildings everywhere make this area charming and fascinating.
Yanaka is also called a temple-district, counting more than 70 temples to this day.
If you want to take a breath out of Shinjuku and Shibuya, relax and stroll around in little streets full of authentic stores, amazing eateries and yatai (food stall) this is the ideal place!
The list of delicious food you can find here is endless, and you can enjoy a walking-and-eat in the main commercial street.
Go down the “Yuyake dandan” stairs (meaning “sunset stairs”, you may guess why!) and make yourself have a peaceful day in Tokyo.
8 things to do in Yanaka
1. Visit the popular eateries and get yourself to try these delicious famous foodies :
You may have to queue for a moment because the popularity of this store has been increasing every year, but we understand why:
Himitsudo makes amazing Kakigori (shaved ice).
They take pride in using traditional handle-operated machine, and serve recipes using seasonal ingredients.
Mine had cherries and fruits hidden inside like gems!
Japanese cherries are particularly fruity and the flavor of this ice was amazing~
Right down the Yuyake dandan stairs, Ikayaki Yakiya offers a specialty from Osaka:
Ikayaki, A grilled squid wrapped in a thin savory pancake. You can choose various toppings so it gives you reasons to come and try several times;)
If you love Okonomiyaki, the texture is a little bit similar, you will love it!
Walk down the street again a few meters and you’ll find on your right Niku-no-suzuki.
Menchikatsu is the shop’s most famous meal: a deep-fried cake, furnished with ground meat, crab-cream or vegetables.
Crispy and fluffy inside, it’s a yummy fulfilling little bun.
Many celebrities seem to have visited here and their pictures are proudly hanged in front of the shop.
Finally, head other the little street on your left to experience scrumptious Takoyaki at Yanaka Takobo: a small ball of happiness ^.^
Takoyaki is another specialty from Osaka, a ball-shaped dumpling filled with Octopus.
Slightly crispy on the outside, napped with a full flavour sauce and toppings, this is one of the best dainties I could eat all day!
You can check their website, they have put very nice pictures of the area and a smart selection of shops around that they recommend.
2. Have a fresh afternoon-beer break
Well, it’s not common in Japan to walk in the streets hanging a beer and freely drinking at your content, but you can do that here! In this street it’s like it was Matsuri all-day long.
Echigoya Honten, a little sake shop, offers fresh tap beer and also Amazake, a sweet japanese sake made or rice, that acutally doesn’t contain alcohol at all.
You can either savour it walking around, or taking a break sitting at their little benches.
3. Visit the many temples around
You might notice if you come from Nippori station, there’s a big cemetery. (which is not morbid at all, in the spring season the many cherry trees blooming here are wonderful!) and it’s surrounded by an incredible amount of temples and shrines.
If you walk toward Nezu station, about 10 min walk, you will find the famous Nezu shrine and its hundreds of Tori, which doesn’t fail to remind us about Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto.
It is one of the oldest shrines in Japan, the present structure is preserved since the Edo period!
The garden and scenery around are so beautiful, I really recommend you to have a look.
4. Stroll around Yanesen
Yanesen is actually the contraction word for
“Yanaka – Nezu – Sendagi”
which are the names of the 3 neighbourhoods englobed in Yanesen.
They are all very old areas of Tokyo, originally temple-districts, and managed to preserve this charming Edo-period style.
Starting anywhere from Nippori, Sendagi or Nezu station, you can walk in the narrow laneways and find a bunch of old shops, antiquity, art stores, second-hand kimono shops, cute little eateries and many various traditional stores, selling encens, traditionally confectionated Senbei (japanese crackers) kimono…
This area is close to Tokyo’s first Art university and also hosts many art galleries.
But if you decide to lose yourself, just looking at the historic buildings in the area itself is already entertaining!
5. Meet the local cats
If you’re a cat lover, that’s the paradise place for you in Tokyo!
They live peacefully here, you can see them yawning and stretching nonchalantly; obviously they know they are the stars here, and some of them seem like taking pause for the camera. You’ll notice as well some of them are always sitting at the same spot : maybe they guard and keep the area’s spirit?
Shops around also understood this and impressively honour them
6. Craft a mosaic lamp
I’m pretty sure this is something you never did before, moreover in Japan: Make your own Turkish mosaic lamp!
Zakuro, a shop situated in the main commercial street, organise handcraft workshop everyday.
7. Visit one of the oldest tea shop in Tokyo
This shop has been running for more than 60 years, they specialise in green tea but you can find all kinds of Japanese tea. They have an impressive collection of tea cups, all sort of ceramics, and if you go there in full summer like me they’ll welcome you with a refreshing sample of iced green tea.
You can get a lot of helpful recommendations from them, they have a true pleasure to share their passion with visitors and foreigners.
8. Get into an Australian-style coffee shop
That’s what is great in Yanaka, such a mix of authenticity, modernity, and cultural values!
Walk down the main street and turn on your left for a few meters , and you’ll face CIBI, a coffee shop also existing in London and Australia, and where you’ll be able to experience typical Aussie coffee drinks like beautifully poured Latte and flat white
You’ll find here the map with every place I quoted, and additionally all my favourite spots and recommendations!
Click on the icons to see the description and open the page on Google maps.