The charming retro downtown area is home to quaint shops and rustic streetscapes, making it the perfect destination for those seeking to go off-the-beaten-path while on their journey through Japan. From a historical shotengai to cat-themed shops and cafes, the area strikes a note of nostalgia in every visitor’s heart.
The name Yanesen comes from the first letters of the three famous sightseeing areas in Bunkyo ward (Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi). The area survived the firebombing in WWII, so there are many historical Edo-era temples and buildings still remaining. It’s also known for its abundance of cats and cat goods, so if you love cats, this is the perfect place to visit.
If you find yourself in this charming neighborhood, here’s how you can spend your day!
Walk Through Torii at Nezu Shrine
With a history of 1,900 years, Nezu Shrine has many Important Cultural Properties, including the shrine pavilion and karamon. After visiting the main shrine, pass through a long row of torii gates to get to Otome Inari Shrine. The shrine is also known for its azalea festival in April and May, where 3,000 azaleas bloom at the shrine.
Stroll Down Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street
Within a 5-minute-walk to Nippori Station is Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street, which includes about 70 stores along a narrow alley of about 160 meters in length. You can find traditional crafts, souvenirs and delicious food, including Genki Menchi Katsu (minced meat cutlet) from Niku no Suzuki and Chonmage Imo (sweet potatoes with sesame seeds) from Chonmageimo Tamaru. This is the perfect location to spend the afternoon browsing for souvenirs or trying cat-shaped taiyaki or kakigori in the summer.
Visit Yanaka Cemetery
The 10-hectare Yanaka Cemetery has around 7000 graves, including the grave of the 15th shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu and famous politicians, artists and businessmen. While it is a cemetery, it feels more like a park since it filled with trees, shrubs and small gardens. During cherry blossom season, it’s peaceful atmosphere and quaint location make it a popular destination where you’ll find many people strolling through the streets and admiring the petals drifting through the sky.
Buy Cat-themed Souvenirs
Speaking of cats, there are many shops selling cat-related items and cafes in this area. There are many maneki neko shops like Kaiun Yanaka Do that sell maneki neko that people from all over the country come to buy. You can also try cat-shaped snacks like Yanaka Shippoya’s donuts and Maneki-ya’s Fuku Nan Yaki cakes. Nenneko Ya is a cafe that has various cat-themed meals and desserts, such as Nyanko Curry (Kitty Curry), Nyapolitan (Kitty Pasta) and the Kitty Roll cake set. You can also play with real cats inside the cafe.
Stay at HOTEL GRAPHY NEZU
After a long day of exploring, enjoy a pleasant at HOTEL GRAPHY NEZU, which offers plenty of chances for guests to meet new people and form lifelong connections with fellow travelers. The hotel provides a community space for social interaction and a rooftop that offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area.
If you’re interested in staying at HOTEL GRAPHY NEZU, click here for more information.