If you have come in search of the true shitamachi ambience, then Yanaka is a must. Located 4–5 km north of Tokyo Imperial Palace, Yanaka escaped the devastation that other parts of the city suffered in the air raids of the war, leaving behind the wooden structures and narrow streets that today give the area its charm. It is also home to about 60 temples, many of them sub-temples of larger ones built in Kanda and Ueno.
While places like Shibamata and Kawagoe give better examples of Edo architecture, there’s a lull to the streets of Yanaka that lets visitors glimpse into the everyday life of people for whom Tokyo is both the capital and their home. The area is also known as Yanesen, an amalgamation of the first three syllables of three places (Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi)—all located south-west of Nippori Station. Starting out in the morning at Nippori Station and slowly meandering your way to Ueno Park is one of the best ways to see the area.
Tsuji-Bei Wall at Kanonji Temple
As you wander the streets of Yanesen, make a detour via this mud and tile wall. Built in the latter half of the Edo period, this 40m x 2m section has managed to survive the natural disasters and air raids, and today stands as a perfect representation of how the city would have been divided up in times gone by.
Directions. Follow the road down from the Asakura Museum of Sculpture and the wall is on your right after about 50 meters. Google Maps
Directions. Walk straight from the West Exit of JR Nippori Station and bear right when the road forks. Ahead you’ll come to some steps leading down to Yanaka-Ginza. Google Maps
Nezu Shrine is one of Japan’s oldest shrines and a key attraction in the Yanaka area. The shrine is known for its line of small torii and, if you are visiting in spring, the 3,000 azaleas which bloom in the outer grounds.
Directions. 1-28-9 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0031 | 5 minutes from Nezu Station on the Chiyoda Line or Todai-mae on the Namboku Line. Google Maps
Museums / Art Galleries
This 3-floor building is the former residence and studio of Asakura Fumio (1883-1964) who came to Tokyo from Oita Prefecture at the age of 19 to study sculpture. He set up the studio in 1908 after graduation and worked there…
The Calligraphy Museum holds important collections for the Chinese and Japanese calligraphy histories, which were collected by a Western-style painter and oriental calligrapher Fusetsu Nakamura (1866-1943) for more than 40 years, almost half his life. Since the foundation in 1936,…
Old clock museum hidden in the backstreets of Yanaka containing about 20 Edo period clocks that look like contraptions to the untrained eye. The building and grounds of the museum is of equal interest—an overgrown backyard that must have many…
An unusual name for a contemporary art gallery—one which makes better sense when you’re told that the gallery is housed inside a former bathhouse and that the building itself is over 200 years old. The gallery is known for introducing…
Ueno Sakuragi Atari is the result of a project in conjunction with Taito Cultural and Historical Society which restored three houses dating back to 1938 (plans had originally been put forward to demolish them and build a parking lot). Opened…