Japanese visitors love the relaxed retro atmosphere in Yanaka. Local stores sell old-time snacks and sweets and Yanaka Ginza is a charming old-fashioned shopping street. It is best to explore the area on foot. The many temples, shrines, and streets lined with old buildings here are great for window-shopping or a photo walk. Galleries and shops sell Japanese products and traditional crafts like dolls and paper. Take a break at one of the cute cafés and bars. In spring, the cherry blossoms at Yanaka Cemetery are beautiful. You can walk from Yanaka to Ueno.
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Chiyogami is a kind of Japanese paper that is decorated with colorful patterns and figures. Edo chiyogami paper is made using a technique similar to ukiyo-e woodprints. If you like cute stationery, choose a few cards or a set of origami paper. The beautiful paper is also used for crafts like paper dolls and decorative boxes or book covers.
“Zaka” means slope and Sansakizaka goes from Sendagi station through Yanaka up towards Yanaka Cemetery. It is also called Kubifurizaka (Head Moving Slope) – along the street are temples and shrines that all make people lower their head on their way past. The ghost story “Botan-doro” (Peony Lantern) by Japanese author and “rakugo” storyteller Sanyutei Encho (1839-1900) is set here.
Walk down the Yuyake-dandan steps and through Yanaka Ginza to Yomise-dori Street. It is also an old shopping street. On the right side is the Yanesen Tourist Information and Culture Center. Walk down the left side and you pass small cafés and stores selling Japanese sweets and snacks. This way brings you to Sansakizaka close to Sendagi station.
Yanesen is the Yanaka-Nezu-Sendagi district in Tokyo’s “shitamachi” area. Get information about places to visit and things to do at the Yanesen Tourist Information and Culture Center on Yomise-dori Street near Yanaka Ginza. Make a reservation if you are interested in a guided tour or a lesson. The center offers lessons for tourists introducing Japanese culture, for example calligraphy, tea ceremony, and flower arrangement.
Yanaka Ginza is a shopping street lined with stores that support local people’s lives. There are about 70 shops selling “okazu” (prepared Japanese side dishes), fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, flowers, stationery, general goods, bento lunch boxes, books, electric appliances, medicine, tea, and shoes. Yanaka Ginza has a welcoming old-fashioned atmosphere. You can feel the energy and appeal of life in Tokyo’s old “shitamachi” area.
Visit a sweets shop or café that specializes in popular desserts like Japanese style French toast or “kakigori” ice. Kakigori from a food stall is usually just shaved ice with syrup, but at a café it can be a colorful and tasty piece of art. Imagine fluffy ice with a combination of toppings and seasonal flavors like strawberry milk, mango yoghurt, matcha green tea and sweet beans, or pumpkin and caramel.
There are a lot of cats in Yanaka: cute cats sitting outside, cat statues, foods shaped like cats, cat goods, and even a specialized shop full of lucky cats. They are called “manekineko” and are for good luck. Some manekineko are experts that are supposed to give you specific good luck – finding love, making more money, or attracting new customers to your business.
Japanese bars are not only for drinking. They serve excellent food and people come in for lunch or dinner with friends. Take a break from sightseeing and shopping and try some Japanese beers and snacks. Old Japanese wooden buildings have a special atmosphere. You can relax here and forget that you are in the busy city.