For a taste of Old Tokyo, head to Yanaka. This charming neighbourhood in Northern Tokyo has largely escaped the fires, earthquakes and WWII air raids that have flattened so much of the rest of the city and has one of the sweetest shopping strips in the city.
Temple Trail in Nishi-Nippori & Yanaka
We started at Nishi-Nippori station and wandered the backstreets of Nishi-Nippori, passing countless Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples along the way. We stopped at a few, like the Suwa Shrine, but our stomachs got the better of us once we reached a main street with cafes and shops.
Stocking up on snacks
The tiny foodstore was stopped at was full of Japanese bakery items that were different to anything I’d ever seen before. It was hard to decide what to choose when everything looked new and delicious, especially since we didn’t have a clue what we were buying. Luckily, we chose well! We bought a spongey cake filled with a red bean paste jelly and some soft and squishy yellow things that I don’t have the vocabulary to describe very well in English. There’s a whole other category of Japanese baking that I just don’t have the words for!
We decided to save the squishy yellow balls for later. Still pretty hungry, we stocked up on rice and seaweed breakfast snacks at 7-11, which was quickly becoming one of my favourite dining destinations (kind of kidding).
Even 7-11 food is presented carefully in Japan. One of my favourite 7-11 breakfasts is an assortment of triangular onigiri rice balls, which you peel from the top point of the triangle to reveal a delicious rice snack filled with some sort of fish or vegetable filling.
This part of Tokyo was very quiet and peaceful, with hardly anyone about on the street. From here, it was a short walk down to the pre-war shopping street Yanaka Ginza.
Window shopping on Yanaka Ginza
Yanaka ginza is a pre-war stopping street, jammed with stores selling traditional goods, food and produce.
None of the buildings along Yanaka Ginza were more than a few stories high, and with the open plan shops spilling out onto the narrow pedestrian streets it felt much more intimate than Shinjuku or Shibuya.
For some reason, I wasn’t in a shopping mood when I was in Tokyo – I think I was in such a state of shock and awe, that instead I preferred to try and absorb the sensory overload of the city. I had no mental room for shopping, but if I went back I would definitely go shopping for jewellery, art and homewares in Yanaka Ginza.
Sacred spaces and Kawaii culture
After walking along Yanaka Ginza, we meandered through the neighbourhood towards Ueno Park. Like so much of Tokyo, Yanaka is full of a variety of architecture, but I particularly loved some of the super kawaii, candy coloured buildings I spotted in this area. On one corner you’d see a cartoon-like corner store or house, and on the next you’d pass a peaceful shrine or temple. There is never a dull moment in Tokyo.
Have you been to Tokyo? Did you visit the Yanaka neighbourhood? What are your favourite neighbourhoods to seek out when you travel? Let me know in the comments!