5 Days in Tokyo: Hidden Yanaka

Lost in Time
By Sol March in Travelogue

Tokyo is a modern city, full of glass towers, wide avenues, and constant activity. However, there are hidden time-warps scattered throughout the city that have somehow evaded modernization and offer a rare glimpse into Tokyo’s past.

One of these hidden places is Yanaka.

Manhole cover in Yanaka Large Tombstone in Yanaka Cemetary


Yanaka is where people live.

However, they don’t live in high-rise apartment buildings– they live in houses. It’s amazing to see in a city like Tokyo where space is at such a premium, but Yanaka’s narrow winding roads are lined with quaint houses complete with fences and small yards.


Houses in Yanaka Stroll Small Side-Street Shop Block Bamboo Fence

The only tall buildings you see are in the distance, beyond Yanaka’s borders.

Beyond Yanaka

Here in Yanaka, you can breath. The open sky and absence of large buildings makes Yanaka feel even more at ease than the extremely relaxed Otsuka (our home-base in Tokyo).

The Ginza

If you find your way out of the maze of houses, you will find yourself standing before the entrance to Yanaka Ginza— a marketplace that has remained largely unchanged for over a hundred years.

Yanaka Ginza

Here you will find artisans selling their wares from small storefronts. Each shop is unique and specializes in something different, from clothing and accessories to food and snacks.

Yanaka Ginza Shops in Yanaka Crowded Yanaka Ginza Around the Corner I love ya Tamaru Soba Sign Yakitori Shop Yakitori Chicken

Most of the shops in Yanaka Ginza are one of a kind, meaning that you may have to stand in line to get a taste.

Waiting for Dessert

The shops are situated mostly along a single avenue, but there are numerous side streets and alleyways to explore as well.

Down the Alley Skyward Steps from Yanaka


Cats also live in Yanaka, and the locals have embraced them.

Colorful Cats Rooftop Perch

Even the taiyaki— a traditional fish-shaped Japanese cake– has been reimagined in the form of a cat at a unique taiyaki shop in Yanaka.

Neko Taiyaki Shop Golden Taiyaki Making Neko Taiyaki Preparing the neko taiyaki mold Clean the Cat Custard Taiyaki Filling Neko Taiyaki almost ready Waiting for Neko Taiyaki Neko Taiyaki! Yum Neko Smile

Thankfully, the cats stay out of people’s way and are generally quite tame, even when they’re begging for a snack.

The Approach Yawn Lying in Wait

Find Yanaka & Get Lost

Yanaka is one of the last remnants of Tokyo’s past. As time goes on though, more and more of Tokyo is sure to be modernized and rebuilt to make room for its ever-growing population. When you visit Tokyo, make sure to explore Yanaka before it’s gone forever.


5 Days in Tokyo

More Stories