Yanesen: Experience the Charm of Old Tokyo

A quiet corner tucked in the heart of Tokyo, 谷根千 Yanesen is a quaint mosaic of three adjoining neighborhoods – 谷中 Yanaka, 根津 Nezu, and 千駄木 Sendagi. It stands as a testament to the city’s vibrant past, displaying a delightful blend of traditional architecture and picturesque landscapes. For those seeking an authentic slice of Tokyo’s history, Yanesen offers a tranquil sanctuary, making it a popular choice for leisurely strolls. Notably, its charming old-fashioned 下町 shitamachi (downtown) atmosphere, picturesque views, cat-themed goods and quaint houses invite visitors to take a step back in time and explore the lesser-known facets of Tokyo.


Nezu Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line

Yanesen’s tranquil charm is comfortably accessible from the heart of Tokyo. You can reach the area via the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line. The nearest stations are Nezu (C14) and Sendagi (C15), both of which are approximately 20 minutes from Tokyo Station. Stepping out of these stations, you’ll find yourself within walking distance of most of Yanesen’s attractions, offering a sense of convenience that makes exploring the neighborhood a breeze.

Food and Drink

The culinary offerings in Yanesen add to its nostalgic charm, creating a delightful palate of tastes for visitors to explore. Whether you’re a lover of traditional Japanese sweets or are looking to enjoy the comfort of a cafe, Yanesen provides a range of memorable dining experiences.

A taiyaki cake. (Image for illustrative purposes only).

和菓子 Wagashi: When it comes to traditional Japanese sweets, or wagashi, Yanesen doesn’t disappoint. These delicacies, made with mochi (rice cake), anko (red bean paste), and fruits, range from simple confections to delicate colorful creations, reflecting the mastery and skill of the artisans who craft them. You’ll also find 鯛焼き taiyaki shaped like a sea bream and filled with sweet red bean paste, a must-try treat that’s perfectly suited for on-the-go exploration of Yanesen’s lanes.

Street Food: Whether it’s a tasty メンチカツ menchi-katsu—a ground meat patty breaded and fried golden brown—from a local butcher shop, a bag of 煎餅 sembei rice crackers or a cake shaped like a cat’s tail, you have plenty of options to choose from in the Yanesen area when it comes to eating on the go.

A menchi-katsu to enjoy on the go in a Yanesen shopping street.

Cafes: Amid the historical streets of Yanesen, you’ll find a handful of charming cafes. Many of these establishments are nestled within century-old traditional houses, providing a serene setting to unwind. These cafes offer a peaceful spot for lunch or a coffee break and often feature delightful afternoon treats, adding a tasty dimension to your Yanesen adventure.


Shopping in Yanesen deviates from the typical urban retail experience. Instead, it offers visitors a chance to delve into the rich tapestry of Japanese artisanal culture through its diverse range of shops and unique items.

Traditional Crafts: Stores across Yanesen specialize in various traditional Japanese crafts. Whether it’s paper goods, hand-painted fans, or ceramics, these shops will reveal a diversity of artisanal expressions. A visit to these stores connects you to the creativity and culture that forms the backbone of Yanesen.

Shopping for hand-painted fans in Yanesen.

Vintage Kimonos: Yanesen’s antique shops often feature a collection of vintage kimonos. These meticulously preserved pieces of clothing are a nod to Japan’s rich textile history. Rich in color and design, they provide a tangible link to Japan’s past.

Local Souvenirs: When it comes to souvenirs, Yanesen’s shops offer more than typical tourist trinkets. From locally produced sweets to beautifully crafted stationery, these stores offer a wide array of products that serve as unique mementos of your visit to this special corner of Tokyo.

Sightseeing and Activities

The tranquil pace of life in Yanesen, along with its rich historical and cultural landscape, makes it a delight for sightseeing. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a history buff, or just a leisurely explorer, there’s something to captivate you in Yanesen.

Yanesen’s iconic Yanaka Ginza shopping street

谷中ぎんざ Yanaka Ginza: As you wander through Yanesen, be sure to visit Yanaka Ginza. This bustling shopping street, a highlight of the area, is lined with a variety of small shops and eateries, offering an enticing blend of sights, sounds, and tastes.

谷中霊園 Yanaka Cemetery: This vast cemetery is a unique attraction in Yanesen. Featuring a pathway lined with cherry trees, it turns into an awe-inspiring sakura tunnel during the cherry blossom season, making it a serene and memorable sightseeing spot. History buffs may also be interested in seeing the graves of famous generals, politicians and numerous other historical celebrities buried there.

Art Galleries and Museums: Artistic expression comes alive in Yanesen, with a number of galleries and museums providing a window into the cultural richness of the area. Many galleries are housed in renovated kominka (traditional houses), providing a unique backdrop to the artwork displayed. Additionally, the 竹久夢二美術館 Yumeji Takeshita Museum, dedicated to the eponymous artist, the 弥生美術館 Yayoi Museum, showcasing Taisho and Showa-era illustrations, and the 根津美術館 Nezu Museum, featuring a diverse collection of Japanese and Asian premodern art, offer insightful journeys into Japanese art history.

The Nezu Museum.

旧岩崎邸庭園 Kyu Iwasaki-tei Gardens: These gardens were once the residence of a prominent businessman during the Meiji era. Today, they’re a public space showcasing a harmonious blend of Western and Japanese architecture amidst beautifully maintained gardens.

Cat Sightings: An endearing aspect of Yanesen is its love for cats. From cat sculptures adorning rooftops to stores specializing in cat-themed sweets, feline lovers will find themselves in a delightful haven. You might even spot a few of the neighborhood’s resident cats basking in the sun as well as cat sculptures perched on roofs, adding a touch of whimsy to your stroll.

A cat sculpture decorating a roof in Yanesen.

Visiting Yanesen is like taking a step back into Tokyo’s rich past. Its charming streets, historical landmarks, delectable food, and welcoming atmosphere all contribute to creating a memorable experience. Whether you’re a history buff, food lover, artisanal shopper, or an art enthusiast, Yanesen is an enchanting corner of Tokyo that holds a wealth of experiences waiting to be discovered.