Sometimes the most rewarding travel is the one closer to your home. It may be the most fulfilling in the sense that without shedding too much penny, you are able to grant the desires of those itchy feet , or maybe just a mere satisfaction on knowing that so close to your area is an unspoiled place where only few has decided to seek.
Many have visited Ueno to check out the art galleries, the zoo or the park but for most people, the adventure is limited within the boundaries of the area. But the true treasure lies somewhere at the back, which I now consider as one of my top discovery in the complex goodness of Tokyo.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to introduce to you – the district of Yanaka.
Walking in Yanaka is like being taken back in Edo period, as if you expect people to be dressed in kimono, and for some unexplained reason your eyes suddenly tuned into a black & white mode, only reverted back to colored when you see a shiny, new car passing by.
It’s an architecture feast for those who appreciate old-style, wooden built houses, where every pointed corner of pagoda styled roof is a wonder. Another reason to fell in love with this district are the narrow streets, the lack of convenient stores and just a calming sensation of peace and quiet.
If you are keen to know more about the Edo era lifestyle, head to Shitamachi Museum to see those giant sake bottles and beautiful Japanese pin-up posters. By the way, the word “shitamchi” refers to an area where the common people lives during the imperial times.
I often travel to far places in Japan to appreciate it’s most celebrated temples and shrines, but who would have thought that within the city limits of Tokyo are abundance supply of mesmerizing statues. They may not have a Buddha as big as the one in Hase or a golden pavilion similar to the one in Kyoto, but seeing those in Yanaka with the towering buildings of the metropolis in the background is truly something else.
The small walls of partition between the temples and the backyard of a neighbor house, where you can see a lined of freshly washed clothes or a small basketball court is like a reminder of how historical the district is and yet there is no need to isolate the past from the present.
Climbing a small set of stairs near the southwest exit of JR Nippori station will take you to the oldest temple in the district- Tenouji Temple. Consulting the local guide map post is a must since you will be visiting numerous temples and shrines, where at one point or another you will forget all those names or have them completely mixed up.
Apart from Tenouji Temple, I visited Jomyoin Temple, Gokokuin Temple, Nezu Shrine, Daienji and Zenshouan, Kan-eji Temple, and others which I don’t know the names. Don’t ask me to map the pictures with the temples and I will definitely fail.
Forget about the unreserved or reserved option of the bullet train, all you need is a pair of sturdy shoes and a huge desire to marvel the district of Yanaka.