Yanesen: step back in time

Posted on February 24, 2013 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

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Top left: Scai the bathhouse; top right: a temples in Yanaka; main: the nostalgic Yanaka


There are so many cool and interesting neighbourhoods in Tokyo, but my favourite is the area known as Yanesen ( including three neighbourhoods: Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi). In a metropolis where everything changes faster than the blink of an eye, it feels like time has stood still here.

The historical Yanaka was originally developed as a temple town in the Edo period (1603-1867). The area was spared from bombings in World War II and was relatively unharmed by the Kanto earthquake, so many traditional architecture, shops and temples remained until today. The best way to explore the area is by foot or bicycle, and it is easy to spend a full day here. Strolling around the area is a pleasure because there are so many hidden gems here, so it's best to take your time and enjoy the nostalgic and tranquil atmosphere.

There are many interesting attractions in the area including: Yanaka cemetery, Yayoi Museum & Takehisa Yumeji Museum, Daimyo clock museum, Asakura Choso Museum ( currently closed for renovations), Nezu-Jinja Shrine (build in 1706), and Scai the Bathhouse ( see my previous post).


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Top left, bottom left: Nezu-Jinja shrine; Top middle & right: street life at Yanaka Ginza; Botton right: Ryokan Sawanoya


Not far from Scai the bathhouse is the Shitamachi Museum Annex, a restored Old Yoshidaya sake store originally built in 1910 but was moved and reconstructed in 1935 to show visitors how the merchants used to work and live in the old days. The store is filled with vintage posters and memorabilia that you really feel as if you have been transported back in time.


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Old Yoshidaya sake store


Coffee time

There are many coffee shops and cafes in the area including a kissaten ( an old-style coffee shop) called Kabaya coffee (6-1-29 Yanaka), opened since 1938 and located right opposite the Old Yoshidaya sake store. But probably the most famous coffee shop in the area is Yanaka cofee ( 3-8-6 Yanaka), a small chained coffee shop that first started out in Yanaka ( near Yanaka Ginza). The shop is quite small with limited bar seating ( and a few outside), but you can buy fresh coffee beans including their own roasted ones and bring them home. If you fancy something sweet to go with your coffee, then walk a few shops down the street and you will see a small chained apple pie shop called, Mammies ( 3-8-6 Yanaka), a local favourite where you can find freshly baked pies.

I stumbled upon a cute and cosy cafe on this visit called Petticoat Lane ( 2-35-7 Sendagi), and perhaps due to the familiar name, I decided to give a try. The place has a rustic/ English feel to it, with dark wooden furniture and many old records. The cafe is opened until late and has live jazz sessions, I think it would be my ideal hangout if I was living in the area.


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Top left & right: Petticoat lane cafe; Main: Kabaya Coffee; 3rd row & bottom left: 2 branches of Yanaka coffee, 3rd row right: Mammies' apple pie; Bottom right: Cafe do Brasil



Not far from the JR Nippori Station is Yanaka ginza, an Edo period shopping street where you can find many traditional food and beverage shops. It is buzzing and charming, but it is nowhere like Ginza, you are more likely to see elderly and housewives with their kids than the well-heeled here.

I especially love the traditional rice crackers ( senbei) shops in this area, one of the most famous one is Kikumi ( 3-37-16 Sendagi), opened since 1875. The crackers are all handmade and they sell square ones that are rarely seen in other senbei shops. Another popular one is Yanaka senbai (18-1-8 Yanaka) not far from the Nippori station.


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Top left: Yanaka senbai; Top right: a confectory shop facade; Main: Kimumi senbei; Bottom left: 嵯峨の家 ( not sure its English name) Bottom right: miniature shop display at a sushi restaurant


Other interesting shops in the area include:

Isetatsu ( 2-8-19 Yanaka) started in 1864 and specializes in chiyogami, traditional handmade block-printed paper. The small shop sells over 1000 colourful traditional paper and stationery, items here are pricey but it is 'must' for all paper and stationery lovers!

Choji-ya dye house ( 2-32-8 Yanaka) is a traditional indigo-dye house that started in 1895. The shop sells beautiful hand-dyed tenugui and other textiles products that are unique and hard to find elsewhere.

Classico ( 2-5-22 Yanaka) is a lifestyle shop that sells simple, minimal and functional household products and antiques. It reminds me very much of Labour and Wait in Shoreditch, London.


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Top left & right: Isetatsu; main: Chojiya dye house


I was quite excited as soon as I stepped into Bisuit ( 1-21-6 Nezu), a cute gift and stationery shop full of vintage and retro items. I was surprised by the range of vintage English greeting cards ( all genuine) on display, I haven't seen such a large collection even in the U.K.! It was later that I found out from the shop's owner/ artist/ illustrator, Masami Takewaki about the cards' origin. It turned out that Masami had spent eight years living in the U.K. and these cards came from an antique dealer in Brighton, where she lived and did her Masters. Masami also has a vintage fashion shop nearby ( 2-9-14 Yanaka), so pay her shops a visit when you are visiting the area.


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Top left: Biscuit shop; top right: owner, Masami Takewaki's illustrations; Main and bottom left and right: Vintage greeting cards from England



This post was posted in Coffee, Tokyo, Photography, Stationery, Shopping, Shopping guide, Travel, Japanese stationery, Anything Japanese, Street life, Japan and was tagged with Coffee, Tokyo, stationery, shopping, Japan, street life