If you are ever in Tokyo and find yourself with an afternoon free, I highly suggest a short walk through Yanaka Ginza, a charming, old-fashioned shopping street. This area is located between two hills, Ueno-dai and Hongo-dai, and is how the street got its name. Easily accessible, it is located between the Nippori Station on the JR Yamanaote Loop Line, and Sendagi Station on the Chiyoda Line (the green subway line).
The purple line below is the Yanaka Ginza street
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During the Edo period, many shrines and temples were built in the area and you can still see evidence of this today if you have time to stroll around the area. After the Second World War, many of the men returning from fighting had to struggle to survive in post-war Japan. Yanaka Ginza was widened and stores selling clothes, cooking utensils, and other items filled both sides of the street as vendors struggled to make a living.
Special events, like the surprise market and special sales, are also often held in the area to attract more visitors and to keep the area vibrant and exciting in a competitive market. As you stroll down the street, note the original signs, matching lights, and the eaves on the store exteriors that add to the overall charm and historic feel of the area.
Once you are tired from browsing the nearly seventy stores on the street and are full from snacking at all the delightful food stalls, walk up a set of steps known as the “Yuyake Dandan,” to view the beautiful sunset. It’s a wonderful place to rest your feet and escape from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the city.
Discovery: Artist Yamauchi Eiemon
On the weekdays, she creates beautiful bags and other lifestyle goods in her workshop. On weekends, she travels with her creations by bicycles, selling at various points. I happened to discover her as she stopped near the entrance to Yanaka Ginza. Her products are somewhat expensive as befits an artist, but perhaps we may one day carry a few of her pieces. They’re very cute!
Her website in Japanese: http://eiemon.com
Discovery: The Kanekichi-en Shop
ADDRESS: 〒110-0001 東京都台東区谷中3-11-10 / 3-11-10 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0001 JAPAN
An old tea shop (many old tea shops also sell nori or seaweed for some reason), the Kanekichi-en shop is run by the same company that runs the Kanekichi Itouan Ryokan (Japanese inn) on the Izu Peninsula (another highly highly recommended visit!).
If you’re looking to pick up a bag of delicious Japanese tea or teaware, this is the perfect stop!
Discovery: Ito Manufacturing
Ito Manufacturing has two shops in Yanaka Ginza (towards the Nippori station side). One shop sells T-shirts, the other custom-made Japanese stamps, or hanko. They sell them with a kind of cynical, but cute humor that is unfortunately mostly in Japanese.