Tokyo Guide: Yanaka Ginza
Tokyo Area Guide: Yanaka Ginza 谷中銀座
Yanaka Ginza is a shopping lane in Tokyo's traditional Yanaka temple district in Taito ward. Yanaka Ginza partly preserves and partly recreates something of the atmosphere of old Tokyo. The name "Ginza" is taken from the more famous Ginza shopping street about 8km further south in Chiyoda ward that boasts Japan's biggest selection of high-end stores.
Yanaka Ginza is a miscellany of little stores offering mainly traditional-style Japanese snacks and sweets, trinkets, souvenirs, clothing, and other accessories. The shops along Yanaka Ginza cater as much to tourists (including from other parts of Tokyo) as locals. Yanaka Ginza's stores are very accessible, most opening out onto the street for easy browsing, and purchasing of readily edible treats or little handcrafted items perfect for giving away as gifts, or maybe keeping as mementos.
Yanaka Ginza is characterized by color and decoration, but its main charm lies in the relaxed atmosphere that prevails even when busy with visiting shoppers - with none of the strident hawking and pushy bustle that characterizes Taito ward's other traditional-style shopping street, the nearby Ameyayokocho.
Yanaka Ginza is only about 170 meters (185 yards) long, but the wealth of things and places to see, do and stop at will keep the visitor passing down it occupied for a good 20 minutes or so--longer if you stop for a bite to eat.
The eastern end of Yanaka Ginza is accessed from Nippori Station down the Yuyake-dandan steps: 36 steps that descend a gentle 4.4 meters (14 feet). Yuuyake-dandan means "Sunset steps" and was so named in 1990 as a result of a naming competition in a local community newspaper on the occasion of the steps' renovation. The view of Yanaka Ginza from the top of the steps is a typical one in TV programs and print articles featuring the area, and its elevation makes the top of the stairs as good a place as any near Nippori Station to view the sunset - no doubt with the right person.
The western end of Yanaka Ginza, towards Sendagi, ends in a T-junction with Yomise-dori: another old-style shopping avenue, but one that caters more to local residents than tourists. Yomise-dori still has enough of interest in terms of old local flavor to warrant exploring.
From Nippori Station, Yanaka Ginza is only about 3 minutes' walk. Turn left out of the West Exit of Nippori Station, follow the road up as it slopes and take the right road where it forks.
From Sendagi Subway Station, Yanaka Ginza is only about 3 minutes' walk. Go out Exit 2, cross the road using the pedestrian crossing and go left up up Shinobazu-dori. Take the first turn on your right, then the first on your left, then the second on your right.
Google Map to Yanaka Ginza
The large, elegant Nezu Shrine is a short walk south-west of Yanaka, and is particularly famous for its spring Azalea Festival, featuring its slopes of luxuriant azalea gardens.
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