By David, long-term Tokyo resident & food-loving traveler
Yanaka is a historic neighborhood of Tokyo without skyscrapers and neon lights. Japanese visitors love Yanaka for its retro style. Somehow this area next to Nippori and Ueno largely escaped fires, war, and earthquakes. Come here if you enjoy a nostalgic atmosphere and small local shops.
Yanaka is a little bit of old Tokyo inside the busy modern city. Accommodation in the area is mostly small hotels, guesthouses, and Japanese style ryokan. Access from Yanaka to Narita International Airport is very fast and convenient using the direct high speed Keisei Skyliner trains from the JR Nippori Station (39 min.). To Haneda Airport it takes 39 minutes by train from Nippori with one transfer at Hamamatsucho. For the Shinkansen trains, Tokyo Station is only 13 min. on the JR Yamanote Line from Nippori.
The Yanesen Tourist Information & Culture Center in Yanaka has excellent information for Tokyo sightseeing and activities. Get a map of the area. It is best to explore the Yanaka area on foot. The Yanaka district is filled with shrines and temples and famous for its atmospheric cemetery Yanaka Reien (a famous cherry blossom spot in the spring). There are also many boutique shops where you can buy crafts, art supplies, Japanese paper, and cute accessories. The Asakura Museum of Sculpture is the former residence and studio of Japanese sculptor Fumio Asakura. Stop for a sweet snack like manju cakes or kakigori ice on the way and take a leisurely coffee break at a local cafe. You can find many old-fashioned Japanese style cafes here. Or try one of the charming restaurants and izakaya.
Yanaka Ginza, the area’s main shopping street, is popular with Japanese visitors longing to revisit the kind of place that has disappeared from many areas. Instead of big supermarkets and shopping malls, this street is filled with tiny shops selling meat, fish, seafood, sake, vegetables, sweets, and snacks. Sample some of the foods and feel yourself transported to a nostalgic retro version of Tokyo.
Here are some interesting places nearby you could visit. Take the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line from Sendagi Station to Otemachi Station (8 min.) for the Imperial Palace Tokyo (Otemachi also connects to Tokyo Station through an underground passageway). Go from Nippori Station to Ueno Station (4 min.) for Ueno Park and Ameyoko shopping street, to Okachimachi Station (7 min.) for arts and crafts shopping at 2k540 AKI-OKA Artisan. Or go in the opposite direction to Komagome Station (6 min.) to visit the beautiful Japanese landscape garden Rikugien.
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