Yanaka is one of the three "Shitamachi" or old downtown districts of Tokyo collectively called Yanesen (Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi). The neighborhood is known for being a temple town since the Edo period. However, In this entry, I wanted to focus on Yanaka Ginza. Sure, shopping in Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro is exciting but how about exploring a naturally preserved shopping street with a rare mid-20th-century Showa vibe?
Yanaka Ginza is a short walk from Nippori station on the JR Yamanote Line (6 stops from Ikebukuro). Follow the main street from the "Nishiguchi" (西口) or west exit to the broad staircase leading down to the shopping street where the small one-product shops that have sold traditional handcrafts and sweets for generations coexist with modern art galleries and bakeries.
The shopping street is only 185 yards long but is packed with 70+ unique stores selling olds and news such as straw sandals, rice crackers, traditional crafts, fish, candy, and European bread. Many (like us) visit to enjoy the atmosphere that used to be found in any Showa neighborhood when we were children.
If you grew up in Japan in the 70's or 80's you probably remember biting into a piping hot "korokke" or "menchikatsu" on your way home from school. Several meat stores in Yanaka continue the tradition of offering deep fried croquettes and minced cutlets. We tried several this day and found "Suzuki Meat" to be our favorite. (Picture: menchikatsu 230yen)
- Double custard
- Maccha (green tea)
- Anko (bean paste)
- Cream Cheese Pizza
- Beef Stew
Want something sweeter? Visit "Manekiya" and try the Fukunyan Yaki which is a cream filled moist waffle in the shape of a cat (similar to taiyaki). In Japan, cats are a symbol of good fortune and this neighberhood is known for it's many wandering cats.
Our favorite discovery this trip was the strawbery cream puff offered buy "Chayuutei", a small cafe at the base of the entrance staircase.
The cream is a bit tart but refreshing and the shell is crunchy. A fresh whole strawberry awaits you as you bite ino the delightful treat. One of the best cream puffs I've had in Japan.
Access: Nippori Station - JR Yamanote line (6 stops from Ikebukuro) 5 minute walk from the west exit
Open: Daily but food stores open at 11:00~11:30
Child Friendly: Yes
Time: 2~3 hours