Tokyo Guide: Yanaka 谷中 千駄木
Tokyo Area Guide: Yanaka 谷中
Yanaka is the one remaining "old" part of Tokyo.
Much of the Yanaka area is sprinkled with temples and shrines - ensuring it will not meet the wrecking ball - and old wooden homes.
Moreover, Yanaka was miraculously spared the horrific US air raids of March 1945.
Yanakacovers the arearoughly from Sendagi Station, on the Chiyoda Line, eastto Yanaka Cemetery. (In Japanese, the cemetery is known asYanaka Reien; though, most people will refer to the cemetery as Yanaka Bochi.) The area stretchessouth to Kototoi Dori (Street).
Once you have crossed Kototoi Dori, you will be entering Ueno. Tokyo National University of Art, and then Ueno Park and its many museums, is just ahead.
Perhaps the easiest way to see the area is to ride the Yamanote Line to Nippori Station. From here, exit and walk up the stairs outside the station to the top of the bluff on which the cemetery sits. On your left will be Tennoji Temple noted for a large bronze statue of Buddha dating from 1690.
Yanaka Cemetery is perhaps the most famous cemetery in Tokyo.
The cemetery has the feel of park with its alley of cherry trees (pictured above). It also can boast of being the final resting place of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last shogun of Japan (pictured below).
Other artists and figures prominent in their lifetimes are also interred here. If you wander into the cemetery, you will probably find yourself alone but for stray cats and the occasional crow.
Having strolled through the cherry tree arcade and exited on the other side of the cemetery, you can now explore the neighborhood.
If you walk straight ahead for 5-10 minutes, you will come to a former public bath that has been converted into SCAI (tel: 81-03-3821-1144),an art gallery. Turn right up the narrow street so that the gallery is now on your left.
(Down the hill a bit, at the corner of Kototoi Dori, is the Old Yoshida Sake Store, which isa storebuilt in the early part of the 20th century that is now open to the public.)
A bit farther up from SCAI, you will come to an area dotted with temples and shrines. In between the temples often enough are wooden homes.
This is nothing short of a miracle in Tokyo.
These buildings have survived fire, neglect, Curtis LeMay (the US Air Force general who ordered the carpet bombing of Tokyo and many Japanese cities), greed (aka, the Bubble economy of the 1980s), nature, whim, etc.- and still stand.
The area is on high ground and has a relatively low population density; therefore, there is less traffic than in other parts of the city. It is ideal for strolling.
Another area of interest is Yanaka Ginza, an old-timey high street with mom and pop shops. It's not what it once was - nothing is - but if your wandering finds you north of Sendagi Station, there is much to see.
A bit east of the shopping street is Asakusa Sculpture Hall. This is the former home sculptor Asakura Fumio (1883-1964), and is now a museum that features his works.The home itself is well preserved and has atraditional garden.
Yanaka cemetery, Tokyo
Hongyoji Temple in Yanaka is famous for its cherry blossom in spring and the temple grounds have three haiku stones inscribed with haiku poems by the poets Taneda Santoka (1882-1940) and Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827).
Getting to Yanaka
The Yanaka area can be accessed from either Sendagi Station (Chiyoda subway line) Nippori Station or Nishi Nippori Station (Yamanote Line).
Hongyoji Temple entrance, Yanaka, Tokyo
Yanaka in Tokyo retains a traditional low city feel
For a full listing of Tokyo Museums & Art Galleries click here