Relish in the nostalgic charm of Tokyo as you walk past the streets of Yanaka Ginza, a shopping district that has preserved the glory of old Tokyo in the midst of the city’s modern grandeur. This district is also a peaceful and feline-friendly haven. Cats add a silent spark in this shopping mecca along with its creepily enchanting, cherry blossom-lined cemetery that is a tranquil home of almost 7,000 tombstones.
Let’s walk past the memory lane and delight with the rustic beauty of this old shopping sanctuary and unravel it through the steps of Yuyake Dandan Staircase, which welcomes visitors to the old-school glamour of Yanaka Ginza. The term “Ginza” in Yanaka Ginza was derived from the bustling and luxurious shopping district of Tokyo. However, Yanaka Ginza’s charisma is in the small stores that sell traditional and artisanal Japanese accessories, treats, and souvenirs.
Shopping can get a tad tiring and what better way to replenish your energy than by trying the grub sold along Yanaka Ginza. Pancakes are a thing along Yanaka Ginza, however, contrary to the conventional pancakes, these cakes sold in Yanaka Ginza are a combination of something savory and something sweet. For some squid-infused pancakes or ikiyaki, visit Yakiya which sells squid pancakes. Yakiya also offers adding meat or cheese to the ikiyaki, for ¥200 an order. Meanwhile, if squid isn’t your thing, head on to Manekiya for sweet fish-shaped pancakes filled with either red bean, custard cream, and green tea.
Meanwhile, another popular food joint in Yanaka Ginza are butchery shops selling specialty food. Niku no Suzuki’s butchery shop is famous for its menchikatsu. Menchikatsu is pork croquette deep fried with bread crumbs to make it crispy on the outside but with moist, meaty goodness inside. Also sold in this butcher’s shop is korokke or deep-fried potato croquettes with meat and vegetables. For those who prefer some skewered seafood treats, head on the Niku no Sato’s butchery, which sells skewered hotate (scallops) and kaki (oysters).
Doughnuts are also a big thing in Yanaka Ginza. Cat-tail like doughnuts? Yes, at Yanaka Ginza’s Yanaka Shipoya, these sweet treats along with other seasonal and regular flavored doughnuts is the specialty of this bakery. Those health conscious peeps, meanwhile, can still enjoy doughnuts at Yanakamanten Doughnut shop, which sells non-oil fried doughnuts in assorted flavors.
To beat the heat, why not have a scoop of Himitsudo’s strawberry milk kakigori (shaved ice). This dessert place is such a favorite that you might have to spend a few hours on queue to get a taste of this authentic Japanese treat. To cleanse the palate, grab some free tea and explore a vast variety of green teas at Kanekichien.
Yanaka Ginza is also a home to traditional Japanese treats and sweets retailers. For a taste of Osenbei, or Japanese rice crackers, made of beaten boiled rice which are grilled then flavored with soy sauce, head on to Yanaka Senbei.
Indeed, not all is lost as in the modern, eventful façade of Tokyo lies a sweet spot of Edo heritage that encapsulates deeply-rooted wonders of Japanese culture that has withstood time. This old-school vibe, along with its artisanal and long-established arts, crafts, and food offerings that have been the bewitching appeal that Yanaka Ginza.
Aleli is a wanderlust whose main itinerary is to culture soak in the places that she sets foot on, sinking her teeth in the gustatory offerings that the place has to offer and knowing the story behind it. Food for her is a marriage of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the rich history of every city she explores and uses the pen as her tool to share to the world each unique experience she unravels.