Yanaka: a glimpse in the past of Tokyo
Yanaka is a neighborhood located at just a short distance walk from the JR Nippori station. It is part of a larger area that has come to be known as Yanesen (a combination of the first syllables of Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi). This area was largely sparred by the bombings of WW2 so a lot of it's townscape can be seen as a glimpse of the past!
Japanese talk of this neighborhood as having an atmosphere that is "setsunai", which would translate as some kind of subdued melancholia, in which there is also lot of beauty and nostalgia. Sunsets are beautiful seen from the Yanaka Ginza shopping street!
Along with the friendly locals, stray cats also populate the area and add even more quaint charm to the place.
Besides the many beautiful temples, an Edo era mud wall can be seen in Yanaka! The Kan'on-ji wall pictured above is an historical cultural asset of the city. Be sure to mark it on your yanesen walking tour!
Yanaka Ginza: what to eat?
Yanaka Ginza is the main shopping street of the area. It measures just about 200 meters but it is very lively! It's located at just a 5 minute walk from the Nippori Station. Here are some of the places you should try while you stroll the historic area.
Nagomi: delicious yakitori!
A delicious and popular yakitori store located in Yanaka Ginza.
Here you can have delicious yakitori (chicken grilled on skewers) at a reasonable price. Choices include: chicken skin, "tsukune" (cartilage part), thighs, liver, and many more. You have a choice of a tare sauce (slighty sweet soy sauce flavor) or just plain with salt. Both are excellent. Ask which sauce goes well with the yakitori you order. Of course, it's a good idea to get a beer here or select from one of the stores many shochu (strong Japanese alcohol). Also, umeboshi (slated sour plum) are said to be great! The chef's selection of 5 yakitori sells for 980 yen.
A great Yanaka Ginza bakery with an Astro-boy themed interior that uses an oven made of volcanic rocks from mouth Fuji!
This story has an interesting menu. Along with many baked goods, it sells delicious original pizzas such as the asparagus, cheese and tomato one shown above! A must try.
They also have delicious caramel croissants, chocolate and almond croissants, sprout rolls, curry breads, Japanese traditional breads, and just regular plain loaves which are said to be amazing due to the slow baking techniques. Prices are quite cheap here. This is a shita machi store so nothing too fancy, just great taste at a reasonable price! A nice place to have lunch and coffee.
Yanaka Fukumaru Manju: a taste of traditional Japanese sweets
Store specializing in wagashi (Japanese sweets). The perfect treat for strolling in Yanaka.
This is a delicious little shop specializing in manju, a steamed bun with various fillings. This store's manju are one bite-sized, and they sell at an unbelievably cheap price. Brown cane sugar manju (a must-try!): 10 for 105 yen, sake manju: 10 for 105 yen, custard manju: 10 for 150 yen. You can also get bigger treats such as the fried dough cake for just 70 yen. They also serve green tea which goes wonderfully with their desserts.
If you've had enough of the too crowded tourist areas and want to experience the atmosphere of an old Tokyo neighborhood with lots of vitality and charm, come to Yanaka! And while you're here, make sure to try some of it's great foods in one of the many small stores on or nearby the Yanaka Ginza shopping street.