Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Yanaka Ginza, All You Need To Know

What To Do Yanaka Ginza

When I first heard about Yanaka Ginza, I assumed it would be located in the main Ginza district of Tokyo and I was so wrong.

Most travelers to Japan would have never heard of this timeless part of Tokyo, which has been around since 1945 and has not really changed much. 

So, if you are only visiting Tokyo, and want to explore some of the best non-touristic places around this metropolis, Yanaka Ginza is one of the highly recommended places to visit for a day trip.

Yanaka Ginza - All You Need To Know

Yanaka Ginza Tokyo
Yanaka Ginza is one of the most characteristic streets in Tokyo.
Since I started visiting Tokyo in 1990, I've pretty much been to most of the commercial and non-commercial places all over this mega-metropolis.

Why? Because I used to work in Tokyo from 1990 to 1992, hence I had my fair share of exploring the capital of Japan back in those days, which has been 30 years now. 

However, through my working and living here, I never once did manage to visit Yanaka Ginza, though I heard about this place. Most of my explorations were in the main districts of Tokyo.

Then after multiple visits to Tokyo over the last three decades, I finally made it a mission to check out Yanaka Ginza in March of 2019.

This shopping street started back in 1945, just after the second world war and has seen various changes throughout the decades.

It has also been a popular neighborhood shopping street for those living nearby, catering to daily essential needs. 

In the 1990s, some improvement was made to Yanaka Ginza with a mission to become a popular shopping street for everyone, namely the local Tokyo people and international visitors.

Over the years, Yanaka Ginza has been known as one of the "Shitamachi" or old town districts of Tokyo, and the overall outlook of this place is still very original with a rustic old town ambiance.

Map of Yanaka Ginza
A Google Map of Yanaka Ginza, showing some of the businesses there.
Why is this place called Yanaka Ginza? 

Actually, the area is just called Yanaka, and the word Ginza was added for prestige, and just so you know, the main Ginza district is 25 minutes by train from here. 

History states that back in the old days, there was only one main shopping street in Tokyo and it was Ginza. Throughout time, some other shopping streets began to add "Ginza" to their name.

This was because they wanted to have some status in their shopping street name, hence Yanaka Ginza was born. So, again, this is not located in the Ginza district that everyone may think. 

Location of Yanaka Ginza
The location of Yanaka Ginza seen in a Goole Map of Tokyo. Note the major districts in the map.
Where is Yanaka Ginza?

First of all, no, it is not in the main Ginza area or district, but it is located in the area of Yanaka in the Taito City part of Tokyo, and near to Ueno.

The name sounds confusing, and it was explained above why the name 'Ginza' was incorporated into this area.

What to see in Yanaka Ginza?

The main attraction here is the old and nostalgic Tokyo shopping street feel, where the streets look like they are trapped in time since 75 years ago. 

Visitors will experience a natural setting of a narrow shopping street that is non-covered and from the old days, with no modern buildings, no 24-hour convenient stores, Starbucks or any modern fast food.

Old shop at Yanaka Ginza
One of the nostalgic Japanese beauty saloon shops spotted at Yanaka Ginza.
Walking here, you see mostly local Japanese and the occasional Caucasians or Asians around as this is not a regular high tourist area.

If you wanted to know how things were before Tokyo became modern, then Yanaka Ginza is one of the best examples. 

Shop vendors are all locals, who grew up here and sell a variety of daily necessities ranging from dried food, seafood to ready-cooked meals for takeaway.

In total, there are about 65 businesses located along the main Yanaka Ginza shopping street and a lot more in the surrounding areas.

I have another article detailing what you can see, eat and do in Yanaka Ginza, which lists down some of the most popular things.

Tokyo Yanaka Ginza
The busy scene along the main shopping street.

When is the best time to visit Yanaka Ginza? 

Anytime is a good time, but I would recommend coming here in the Spring and Summer months from March to August when the weather is good. Most vendors will be active, except during winter. 

Overall, you can visit this place anytime throughout the year, but know that during winter, less open-aired vendors will be seen.

If you plan to come on a weekend, you should expect large crowds here, and some of the businesses require you to line up to buy things. 

The best time to visit Yanaka Ginza would still be on a weekday, but avoid Monday as several businesses tend to close. 

How long to spend at Yanaka Ginza? 

I would easily say at least one to two hours unless you plan to visit each and every store and try each and every restaurant and cafe here.

For my trip here, I spent about two hours walking the main street and also the many other smaller roads and alleys around here.

If you want to fully experience Yanaka Ginza and Yomise Dori, the main street on the western entrance, then you may need at least two to three hours of walking.

Food at Yanaka Ginza
Some of the local Japanese takeaway food sold on the street.
What to Eat and Drink at Yanaka Ginza? 

A tricky question, but I managed to explore the entire main street to find that there are in fact several small restaurants, cafes and even Indian food found at Yanaka Ginza.

For food, I would recommend trying the local Japanese hawkers or those selling bites along the street. A lot of deep-fried food is sold at these vendors.

One of the recommended and famous street food in Yanaka Ginza is the meat croquet or 'Menchi Katsu', which often you need to line up to buy them.

As you enter through the west entrance of Yanaka Ginza, there is a corner shop that sells ready-packed Japanese dishes. You can just buy what you need, find a spot to sit down and have a quick meal on-the-go.

For coffee, there is one place called Yanaka Coffee, which is located along Yomise Dori shopping street from the west entrance.

They serve some pretty authentic roast coffee and has a really wide selection of beans from all over the world.

Entrance Arch Yanaka Ginza
The west entrance to Yanaka Ginza. The arch is your indicator to the shopping street.
How long is Yanaka Ginza shopping street? 

The main street is the core area of Yanaka Ginza and is 170 meters (557 feet) long. But the overall surround area is much more than that. 

If you total the entire area up, you can be spending at least an hour just exploring this beautiful rustic Japanese shopping street. 

Photos of Yanaka Ginza Street

Below are a series of photos taken along the main Yanaka Ginza street and also the surrounding areas. I used an Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II camera for all my photos, which are resized.



Shopping at Yanaka Ginza
Roadside vendors are seen near the Yuyake Dandan stairs.  
Street Market Yanaka Ginza
A Japanese couple is seen selling some of their items by the road.
Yanaka Ginza Shops
A local souvenir shop sells all kinds of traditional Japanese items.
Yukata Kimono Yanaka Ginza
A second-hand kimono and yukata shop sells them for really cheap prices.
Yanaka Ginza Zakuro Bazaar
Zakuro Bazar is one of the unique art and craft shops at Yanaka Ginza.
Street Vendors Yanaka Ginza
Street vendors along the way to the Nippori Station.
Seafood shop Yanaka Ginza
A fresh seafood shop that has been here for decades.
Boutique Yanaka Ginza
One of the many clothing boutiques along the shopping street.
Souvenir Shop Yanaka Ginza
Various souvenirs sold at one of the shops.  
Flower Shop Yanaka Ginza
A florist shop along the main street of Yanaka Ginza.
Old Shops Yanaka Ginza
One of the older shops that sell a bit of everything.
How to go to Yanaka Ginza?

Tokyo Metro: To get here, you need to take two Tokyo Metro trains and it only takes around 30 minutes of much less from most parts of Tokyo. 

Take any Tokyo Metro subway train to the Otemachi Station, and from here, take the Chiyoda Line (Light Green) to Sendagi Station.

Exit the station and walk left towards the Bunkyo Sendagi Post Office, turn in there and walk the end, and you will appear outside the Yanaka Ginza West Entrance. The walk is around five minutes.

Yanaka Ginza Yushima Station
The exit at Yushima Station near Yanaka Ginza.

Yamanote Line: Alternatively, you can take the Yamanote line from any of the major stations around Tokyo and stop at Nippori Station. From the station, take the west exit, then head across the Shimogoinden Bridge. 

Head along the main street passing a cemetery on your left. Walk for 200 meters until you find a large flight of stairs leading down the road and Yanaka Ginza is in front of you. In total, it takes about five minutes to walk here.

Yanaka Ginza Address:
3-13-1 Yanaka, Taito-Ku, Tokyo
Hours: 10.00 AM to 6.00 PM
Web: http://www.yanakaginza.com/

Ginza Yanaka
Yanaka Ginza seen from the east entrance.
Conclusion

The next time you visit Tokyo and have some extra time, you should consider visiting Yanaka Ginza as it does not take a lot of time, plus it would be something totally different. 

Overall, it should take you around two to three hours to travel here, walk around, take photos and continue with your exploration around Tokyo.

Yanaka Ginza is truly off the beaten path and is a reminder of what Tokyo used to look like a long time ago. 

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