Yanaka Ginza Tokyo

Itinerary: One Day in Northern Tokyo

Tokyo is the biggest city in the world, so it makes sense to break the city into smaller regions to get the most out of your time. My itinerary for one day in Northern Tokyo covers Nishi-Nippori, Yanaka, Asakusa and Ueno and includes a variety of temples and shrines, shopping streets, charming neighbourhoods, Ueno Park and the magnificent Senso-Ji Temple.

Morning: Temple Trail in Nishi-Nippori, Northern Tokyo

Starting from the Nishi-Nippori train station, we walked through the backstreets of Nishi-Nippori towards Yanaka, passing a number of Shinto Shrines and Buddhist temples along the way.

Temple in Yanaka Tokyo
Suwa Shrine
Temple in Yanaka Tokyo
Jokojiyukimidera Buddhist Temple
Temple in Yanaka Tokyo
The temples in Nishi-Nippori are most popular with elderly Japanese and tourists
Temple in Yanaka Tokyo
Chinese influence is evident in the architecture of the Buddhist Jokojiyukimidera Temple

Midday in Yanaka: Strolling Old Tokyo

Historic Yanaka has managed to avoid many of the fires, earthquakes and the US air raids during World War II, which so drastically shaped most of Tokyo. This charming, pre-war residential neighbourhood is a slice of Old Tokyo, and has a much more relaxed pace than neighbourhoods like Shibuya or Shinjuku. We bought breakfast at a small traditional food store, before heading to Yanaka Ginza, the main shopping street.

Yanaka Food Northern Tokyo  Yanaka Food Northern Tokyo

Bustling Yanaka Ginza is a pedestrian-friendly cluster of shopping streets, with few buildings more than a few stories tall. This charming shopping precinct is a great place to find traditional Japanese handcrafts, homewares and produce.

It’s a side to Tokyo that few tourists ever see, and a far cry from the bright lights of Shibuya and Akihabara.

Yanaka Ginza Northern Tokyo
Entrance to Yanaka Ginza

Yanaka Ginza TokyoYanaka Tokyo Yanaka Ginza Northern Tokyo

Afternoon in Ueno: Ueno Park & Surrounds

Ueno Park is Tokyo’s most popular city park, especially during cherry blossom season. We were there in summer, so we were too late for cherry blossoms, but we did spot a bonsai competition, brass band buskers, beautiful temples and the lotus-covered Shinobazu Pond.

Ueno Park covers 300 acres and is home to museums, temples, a zoo and the University of Tokyo (the Harvard of Japan). We didn’t visit any museums, which I do kind of regret. It was just such a beautiful day, I couldn’t bear to be indoors!

We stopped at the large fountain for one of the snacks we bought at the food store, before venturing further into the park.

Fountain Ueno Park Tokyo

Ueno Park Tokyo
Bonsai Competition in Ueno Park
Ueno Park Tokyo Gojoten Shrine
Entrance to Gojoten-jinja Shrine, a shrine to the medicinal Gods

Ueno Park Tokyo

Ueno Park Lotus Shinbazu Pond Tokyo
Lotus-covered Shinobazu Pond
Ueno Park Shinobazu Pond
The best time to see Shinobazu Pond is in August, when the lotus are in full bloom
Temple in Ueno Park Tokyo
Benziaten Temple, dedicated to the Japanese Buddhist goddess Benzaiten
benzaiten temple on Shinobazu Pond Lotus Ueno Park Tokyo
Benzaiten is the Japanese Buddhist goddess of everything that flows: love, beauty, words, eloquence, water and wisdom

Another section of the pond is lotus-free, and you can hire swan paddle boats. However, legend has it that any couples who uses the swan paddle boats is doomed to break up! I’m not usually superstitious, but I decided to play on the safe side this time 😉

Swan Lake Ueno Park
Swan Lake

We exited from the opposite end of Ueno Park, in the neighbourhood of Ueno. Unlike Yanaka, Ueno was much more modern – although not as futuristic as Shinjuku or Shibuya. Ueno was everyday, modern Tokyo.

Under the train tracks in Ueno Northern Tokyo Ueno Northern Tokyo

Dinner in Asakusa: Sometaro Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is a popular Japanese dish, much like an omelette but with a Japanese twist. “Okonomi” translates roughly to “what you like” and “yaki” translates to grill, which pretty much sums it up. Usually, okonomiyaki involves flour, eggs, cabbage and some sort of protein topped with condiments like mayonnaise.

Sometaro Okonomiyaki Asakusa Tokyo

At Sometaro, you sit at low tables with a hot plate and make your own okonomiyaki. Or at least, that’s the idea – our host had to step in a few times to avoid total okonomiyaki catastrophe.

Okonomiyaki is delicious – and I don’t like traditional omelettes. I could definitely have eaten here several more times if it wasn’t on the opposite side of town to where we were staying (and if there weren’t so many other Japanese dishes to try!).

At Sometaro Okonomiyaki Asakusa Tokyo

Sometaro Okonomiyaki Asakusa TokyoSometaro Okonomiyaki Asakusa Tokyo

Sometaro Okonomiyaki Asakusa Tokyo

After Dark: Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa

The magnificent Senso-Ji Buddhist temple is around a ten minute walk from where we had dinner, at Sometaro. Senso Ji is Tokyo’s most popular temple, and was my favourite of the many temples I saw in Tokyo.

Senso-Ji Temple Asakusa Tokyo

Senso-Ji & Tokyo Sky Tree Asakusa
The Tokyo Sky Tree & Senso-Ji

Asakusa Tokyo Sometaro Okonomiyaki Asakusa Tokyo

Have you been to Tokyo? Where would you like to go in Japan? 

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