Yanaka is one of the best, undiscovered, Old Tokyo neighborhoods in town, filled with traditional shops and excellent shrines and temples.
Let’s start at the Nezu Shrine, which is my favorite shrine in Tokyo.
In addition to having nice buildings, the hillside surrounding the Nezu Shrine is completely covered with azalea bushes, which burst into flaming balls of pink, white and purple at the end of April every year.
Now let’s walk around the neighborhood – this area is a delightful (and relatively undiscovered) example of shitamachi (old town) Tokyo. Many stores have been in business since the Edo Era (before Japan opened to the West). Calligraphy brush stores, Japanese pottery stores, sweet potato treats, housewares stores selling old-fashioned goods like wickerware pillows and sembe shops selling many tasty varieties of crispy sweet and salty snacks.
Nearby is Zensho-an Temple, which has a tall gold Kannon statue and magnificent peonies (in May). If we’re lucky enough to be visiting in August, stop in at the temple’s Ghost Museum (¥500). Telling ghost stories is one of the traditional ways Japanese kept cool in summertime because they “send a chill up your spine.”
There’s lots more to see than I’ve included here, so if you’d like to come with me to see everything I love about this area, click here for the Curated Walking Tour, with maps!
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Jonelle Patrick is the author of five novels set in Japan
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist
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