The Road Less Traveled
Yanaka District of Tokyo
One of Tokyo's few districts to have survived both the 1923 Kanto earthquake and firebombs of World War II, Yanaka is still largely residential, with narrow lanes, small houses, and a few unique museums and traditional shops tucked here and there among the gently sloping hills. It is located just outside the Nippori train station, which is only two stops from Ueno train station on the Yamanote train line, but worlds apart. Because there are no major attractions or department stores here, the atmosphere is markedly different from the rest of Tokyo. Rather, a trip to Yanaka is like a visit to a small town, where the pace of life is slow and the people have time for one another. It's also here where you can still find the old spirit and atmosphere of Tokyo and Japan. If modern Tokyo is starting to wear on your nerves, come here to refresh yourself.
The heart and lifeblood of the Yanaka District is the Yanaka Ginza. This narrow, shop-lined lane on a gently-sloping hillside has a retro atmosphere, and anyone who visits here can experience the life of the average person in Tokyo. The area includes stores selling candies, rice crackers and tea, as well as bookstores, vegetable stores, and meat shops. The hearty cries of the shopkeepers yelling Irasshaimase (Welcome) are heartwarming and can be heard everywhere.
Yanaka Cemetery is a huge cemetery also located in the area. The cemetery is famous for its beautiful cherry blossoms that in April completely cover its paths, so much so that its central street is often called Cherry-blossom Avenue. It covers over 100,000 square meters and has about 7,000 graves. The cemetery has its own police station and a section dedicated to the Tokugawa family who ruled Japan for over 250 years from the early 17th to the mid 19th centuries. The last Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, rests here.