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Goin’ Japanesque!

A Walk Through Yanesen! Tour a Nostalgic Downtown Tokyo

Tokyo is a city where the new and the old coexist.

This time I am reporting on Yanesen, one of the old downtown areas, where I had a leisurely stroll focusing on the element of the old.


What Is Yanesen?


Writer’s Photo

Yanesen is an area that spreads from Bunkyo-ku ward to Taito-ku in Tokyo and it is filled with downtown atmosphere in the old days. Combining “ya” of Yanaka, “ne” of Nezu and “sen” of Sendagi, it is called Yanesen.

The area apparently did not suffer heavy damage during the war; townscape from the old days is still intact today. You can enjoy here various aspects of the old days, from food, art to buildings in the traditional style


Convenient Goods to Take with You!

Now let us start our stroll in Yanesen. These two items will be handy for a stroll.

1. Maps

Maps are convenient to find what exists where easily.
The two websites below provide maps around Yanesen for sightseeing in PDF files.
Please take advantage of them by either downloading or printing them out.

Arakawa-ku official website
Taito-ku Maps
(Taito-ku includes Ueno, Asakusa, Yanaka, Asakusa Bridge, Kachikura, etc.)

2. Bicycles

Writer’s Photo

You can go around the area on foot, but I’d recommend a rental bicycle for a greater efficiency.

You can rent a bike for 2,500 yen a day at this store.

Tokyobike Rentals


4 Great Sightseeing Spots

I made a tour of Yanesen sightseeing spots on foot myself, and I would like to introduce a few of them.

1. Yanaka Ginza

Writer’s Photo

Yanaka Ginza is a shopping street where old-fashioned stores still remain. It has classic atmosphere of the Showa period (1926-1989).

Writer’s Photo: A meat shop often mentioned on TV, and ground meat cutlet is delicious.

You can eat while walking around, and the store is perfect to drop by during a stroll. You can enjoy various Japanese foods from fried food including croquettes and ground meat cutlet to sweets such as dango sweet dumpling.

Writer’s Photo: Baked donuts in the image of cat’s tail

Yanaka Ginza is also known as a town of cats. You can find many merchandize with theme of cats. Information: Map

2. “Isetatsu”

Writer’s Photo

This one here is a long-established store founded in 1864. Unfortunately I couldn’t take photos inside, but the store had many pretty merchandize including bright and colorful chiyogami papers with patterns from the Edo-period (1603-1868) as well as small goods made of them. I heard Edo-chiyogami is characterized by its distinct use of colors. If you are planning to buy Japanese souvenir, this store is ideal for it.

Information: MapOfficial Website

3. Finger Puppet Maker “Shokichi”

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Here is a finger puppet workshop. The store is decorated with celebrity look-alike finger puppets and others with warm facial expressions.

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If 3 or more customers gather, the store presents a finger-puppet show seven times a day at scheduled performance time (500 yen per adult). The puppet show doesn’t include words and it is fun for those who do not understand Japanese language, too.

And wow, a finger puppet will draw a portrait for you (1,000 yen per person)! I heard they will make a finger puppet based on the photos of your face (40,000 yen per person, and about 5 months until completion).

If you are only looking around, it is free of charge, so please drop by casually.

Information: MapOfficial Website

Related Articles:
Bunraku (Culture): Japanese Puppet Theater with Unrivaled Techniques

4. Nezu Jinja Shrine

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Nezu Jinja is a venerable shrine that was founded here about whopping 1900 years ago. The shrine built in 1706 still remains intact today, and it is designated as an important cultural asset of the country.

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The place is particularly beautiful from April to early May with azaleas in full bloom.

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During that time “Tsutsuji Matsuri” (Azalea Festival) is held and many vendor stalls gather there, too.

Related Articles:
11 Events + Items that Remind Japanese of Summer

Writer’s Photo

Otomeinari Jinja shrine is located next to it in austere atmosphere with many torii gates lined up straight. 

You can experience the mood of historic shrines in Tokyo too. Nezu Jinja is a great one you can stop by.

Information: MapOfficial Website


So far I have reported on the attractive features of Yanesen in Tokyo.

One interesting way of Tokyo sightseeing is feeling Japan in the old days by visiting old-fashioned towns scattered here and there while enjoying state-of-the-art technology.

A stroll in Yanesen is highly recommended as it gives you an excellent chance to experience the old within Tokyo.

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About the author

I major in Tourism Studies, and am a university student who loves Japan!

View all articles by Rikako