Yanesen, Japan – A Wistful Walk In An Old Tokyo District

If you think about traditional places in Tokyo, the district of Asakusa and its Senso-Ji temple often come to mind. But with the number of tourists who visit it, this district can sometimes lose some of its charms. If you are looking to visit a traditional and authentic place in Tokyo, the Yanesen district can be a great alternative.

The name Yanesen comes from the combination of the districts Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi. To visit this area of Tokyo, I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in a tour organized by the Tokyo Sightseeing Taxi that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is currently promoting. It is a service provided by the taxi companies in Tokyo and the idea behind it is simple: you choose one of the tours suggested in this brochure and a taxi will pick you up at your hotel for a sightseeing drive. Today’s taxi is number 3. To book one of these tours, you can visit this website.

If you’re traveling with a partner, with your family or with a group of friends, the price per person becomes quite tempting! Moreover, the driver knows Tokyo by heart and will be your English-speaking guide throughout the tour.

Without further ado, let’s start this one by hopping on one of the last remaining trams in the city of Tokyo.

Tokyo Sakura Tram

As you probably know, public transportation in Japan is incredibly advanced and one of the greatest in the world. Most of the lines are nowadays underground to facilitate overground traffic but two tram lines have survived the modernization of the city.

One of them is the Toden Arakawa Line, more commonly called Tokyo Sakura Tram. It runs from Minowabashi station to Waseda, a station near Waseda University. The great thing about this tram is that it offers a great view of the old districts as the tram travels to Waseda. Old-fashioned is the next best thing in Retro World.

If you want to stop at several stations to visit some of the neighborhoods, it is better to take the Toden pass which is 400 yen (~ $3.65) and will allow you to use the Toden Arakawa line indefinitely all day long.

Yanesen, Tokyo – Nezu Shrine

Nezu Shrine is the first attraction to visit in Yanesen. It is one of my favorite shrines in Tokyo and I stumbled upon it by chance during my first trip to Japan. When we visited it, it was raining heavily and I was afraid it would ruin everything. But to be honest, it created some sort of a mystical atmosphere that I really loved.

As you can see, we went to Nezu in the fall and found beautiful yellow gingko (apricot) leaves all over the place.

After you have done your ablutions to purify your body, you can enter the shrine and make a wish in front of the main building of the Nezu Jinja.

If you have a travel diary, don’t forget to print the Nezu Shrine stamp on it.

One of the most remarkable features of the Nezu Jinja Shrine is the beautiful Torii Alley that runs through the site. It will probably remind you of the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto even though there are much fewer shrines here.

As you can see, there’s not much room for debate. If you go to Yanesen, the Nezu Shrine is a must. Make sure to devote at least an hour to have a good look around.

Yanesen, Tokyo – Shopping At Yanaka Ginza

Yanaka Ginza is a very charming shopping street you should absolutely visit in Yanesen. There’s a rather particular atmosphere there and the change of scenery is exotically disorienting. Yanaka Ginza is also appreciated by cats of which there are many everywhere in the district. As it was raining the day of our visit, we didn’t see too many of them.

Cats are the neighborhood’s favorite animals, so shopkeepers sell many products and decoration items featuring the famous Neko. 🙂

Even taiyaki cakes, which usually look like fish, are cat-shaped in Yanaka Ginza. Watch this video to see how Yanaka Ginza looks like on a sunny day:

Yanesen, Tokyo – Tea Ceremony

How about a good warm matcha tea before we call it a day? 🙂 We didn’t just drink it; we joined an exceptional traditional tea ceremony at Yanaka Ginza. As you know, these events usually have a special etiquette and one can sometimes get confused when it comes to the details to keep in mind.

But our tea master of the day was really great and he told us in detail all the steps of a typical Japanese ceremony. We even had the chance to prepare (or at least try to…) our own matcha under his guidance. If you want to take part in this experience, you will have to book in advance and all the information is available on this brochure.

Our walk in the Yanesen district is over! Nice, wasn’t it? What did you think of it? Would you like to visit Yanesen during your next trip to Tokyo? Let me know in the comments. 🙂

See you soon for more adventures in Japan and Asia! 😉