Friday, May 25, 2012

A Sunday in the Shitamachi: YaNeSen

You know you are in for something special when, on the way to Nippori station on the eternally jammed Yamanote line, you find yourself in an almost empty train watching the buildings get smaller and smaller.

Affectionately known as YaNeSen (Yanaka-Sendagi-Nezu), this part of Tokyo was untouched by fire bombings during WW2, which may help explain why it has managed to retain the tranquillity and charm usually reserved for small towns in Japan's minor islands. The area is a treasure trove of old wood buildings, pint-sized restaurants and surprises.

The curtain of quiet drops as soon as you get 100 metres away from Nippori station, and slowly start to walk down the shady lanes of the wonderful Yanaka Cemetary. There, amongst the graves of the brightest minds of the Meiji and Taisho era, Miyagi Michio (founder of my koto school) and a famous murderess, the quiet is only broken by the chirping of grasshoppers and the chanting of monks from one of the myriad of temples in the area. The slight smell of incense and flowers carries on the wind, and in the clearings you can see Tokyo Tower.

The food choices are vast, and equally tinted with the nostalgia of the area. Yakuzen Curry Jinenjou's wood interior and soundtrack of old French songs somehow perfectly compliment the 'medicinal' curry, which contains a whole series of specially selected herbs and vegetables to up your healthiness... which then gets seriously challenged by all the little bakeries and wagashi stores. Eventually I fell for a special natsu daifuku, filled with half a kiwi instead of a strawberry.


  1. If the shitamachi is my favourite part of Tokyo, then Yanesen is my favourite part of the shitamachi.

    Who's the murderess?

    PS: Methinks I should undertake an exploratory mission to that curry restaurant. Thanks for the tip! ^^

    1. I went to gather info for an article, and was amazed. I really really like the area too, so quiet and friendly(^_^)
      The curry was pretty awesome, although pricey... but the portions are huge and the owner really friendly

    2. Oh, and the murderess is Takahashi Oden

    3. Good heavens, she-devils and poisonings and beheadings! Delightfully Gothic.

      PS: Did you see many cats? Real ones and cat statues and cat paintings and cat thingamajiggies. Yanaka, especially, is famous for its cats. ^^

    4. Gothic murderess in Japan. Now you got me intrigued! xD

  2. looks delicious-- and other point, could you do a pro/cons post on living in a sharehouse vs. living alone. I'm currently living alone and am think about joining a sharehouse in hopes of expanding my community