Soon, Tokyo will be open for all visitors after a long lockdown. Strolling around Tokyo at leisure may open up new and unexpected perspectives. Our first retro Japanese vibe was the three Yanesen communities – its name taken from the first syllable of each town: Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi. The communities are worthy of a relaxing walk to enjoy the autumn colors. Yanaka Ginza Shotengai is about a three-minute walk from Nippori Station West Exit, where you will find the 50’s market,
Yanaka Ginza Shotengai. Cat lovers will enjoy the stores, such as Yanakano Shippo, which specializes in making donuts in the shape of cute, long, round, fat, cat tails. Another great shopping spot is Yanaka Senbei store, where you can enjoy famous Senbei rice crackers in a variety of flavors, such as salty, sweet, seasoned dried shrimp or sesame seeds.
YANAKA MATSUNOYA is an authentic, 1945-styled, Japanese traditional store featuring handicrafts made from natural material. It sells neither “the better” nor “the best” but is full of merchandise which makes your everyday life much more convenient. For example, it offers a shorthandled, cleaning broom which is easy to use.
Yanaka Cemetery was established in 1874 and is the tomb where Japan’s prominent figures are buried. This place is stunning in springtime when cherry blossoms are in full bloom. In the fall, it is brightly lit with yellow ginkgo leaves
Kayaba Coffee Shop is a traditional Japanese-style house which offers a famous dish called special egg sandwich. This is where you can sit on cushions and sip a cup of coffee, then immerse yourself in the Japanese retro atmosphere on a tatami floor on the second floor.
NEZU JINJA is a cultural heritage shrine with a history of more than 1,900 years. Built in the Edo period, it is one of ten shrines where Emperor Meiji prayed to help protect the people of Tokyo. A highlight not to be missed is the red torii gates. Around the shrine are cafes and local sweet shops, which sell specialty Carinto sticks and Teriyaki fish cakes.
SHIBAMATA – “old day midtown” is a town close to Narita Airport. It is located in front of Shibamata station, with the statues of Tora-san and his sisters from a famous threedecade-old (1969-1997) TV series called Otoko Wa Tsurai (It’s Tough Being a Man).
HAIKARA YOKOCHO & SHIBAMATA NO OMOCHA HAKU – the streets in front of the station are lined with retro style shops, such as the Haikara dessert store, and Yokocho and Shibamata Antique Toy Museum – a play and learn museum. Inside the store is like riding a time machine back to the 70’s or 80’s.
TAISHAKUTEN DAIKYOJI TEMPLE – The temple was built in 1629 during the Edo Period. In front of the temple hall stands a 500-year-old tree with crutches supporting the branches, the longest of which is 14.5 meters long. Other interesting attractions are ten bas-relief mural sculptures. The Lotus Sūtra (Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra) is one of the most influential Buddhist Mahāyāna sūtras, carved by four generations of artisans, and has become a valuable, inherited artwork. After the tour, we sat by the pond within the Suikeien Japanese Garden to relax and enjoy the lush greenery and free drinks.
SUGGESTED STORES AT SHIBAMATA
Kawachi-ya is a traditional Japanese-style restaurant with a Zen garden. Eel dishes are exceptional here.
Kameya Honpo has been a well-known restaurant since 1901 and appeared in the famous movie Otoko Wa Tsurai. The specialty is Dango, with a variety of toppings of choice. Also, try the famous Kusadango Tsubuan dish – a mixture of white flour Dango and edible spearmint Yomoki, topped either with Tsubu-an or coarsely-ground red bean paste.
After we fully experienced the retro atmosphere of the two communities, we noticed that the Japanese have learned to live with Covid quite well. People aren’t too afraid to take off their masks and breathe in the fresh air, while still adhering to social distancing – an admirable balance between the ‘new normal’ and traditional life, with everything executed with Japanese-style precision and perfection.