Discover ancient Tokyo on a walking tour of Yanaka


Every day, you can count on Tokyo’s main tourist areas to deliver a cacophony of light, sound and mayhem. While that kind of energy has its place, those looking to tap into the culture and personality of old Tokyo should visit a neighborhood like, say, Yanaka.

This district, northwest of Ueno, in the Taito district of Tokyo, is what is called a “Shitamachi” – or downtown -, traditionally inhabited by the working class. Without glitz or glamour, it’s pure history, charm and great photo opportunities. Read below and follow this map for our Yanaka walking tour suggestion.

Itinerary Yanaka

As the majority of stores open around 11:00, you have plenty of time to get to Yanaka in the morning. Meet at Nezu Station on the Subway Chiyoda Line and walk seven minutes to Nezu Shrine. Although technically not in Yanaka, Nezu, it is part of “Yanesen”, a generic name for the three districts of Sendagi, Nezu and Yanaka. They’re not very large neighborhoods, so you’ll end up walking through all three on this walking tour.

Nezu Shrine on Yanaka Walking Tour

10:30 a.m.: Nezu Shrine

This little gem of an alley dates back to 1705 and is somewhat overlooked by foreign visitors. The most famous aspect of this Shinto shrine is the torii gate tunnel, a mini-version of Kyoto’s famous Fushimi Inari shrine. Gates run the length of the complex to the Otome Inari Shrine, a place where maidens pray for marriage. It’s a great place to take photos, especially if you can’t make it to Kyoto. (Read about some other torii gate tunnels in Tokyo here.) If you visit between early April and early May, the grounds come alive with azaleas when they host their Tsutsuji Matsuri Azalea festival. Definitely worth the detour.

Descend the “snake road” of Hebimichi

When you are ready, start heading towards Yanaka Ginza via ‘hebimichi’, or snake street. This residential road weaves its way through the neighborhood, lined with narrow houses adorned with potted plants and those curious water bottles supposed to ward off stray cats. The inhabitants pass by on bicycles, untie the laundry from the balconies and chat with their neighbors.

Hebimichi Road on Yanaka Walking Tour

Kamenoko Tawashi

A must-visit shop on hebimichi is Kamenoko Tawashi Brush Shop, a company in business since 1907 that manufactures wire and natural fiber scrubbing brushes. The name ‘kamenoko tawashi’ means little turtle brush, and their flagship product is a wire and natural fiber scrubbing brush, designed for cleaning vegetables or scrubbing pots and pans. The brush itself is supposed to be turtle-shaped, and the logo is – you guessed it – a turtle. Besides the original brush, they’ve expanded into all sorts of household products, including a range of softer body brushes. If you are looking for a historic, lightweight and eco-friendly souvenir, this is it. It is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed on Mondays.

Kamenoko Brush Shop on Yanaka Walking Tour

(You can read the rest of the article at this link. This article was first published by Team JJ on April 24, 2022. Check here for more in-depth and unique information about visiting Japan, including wellness, travel, cuisine and more. Find us on instagram and on Facebook.)

Author: Team JJ


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