Ya-ne-sen, an old Tokyo unknown by tourists
Miraculously saved from World War II's bombing, what is called "Ya-ne-sen" represents three districts in Tokyo: Yanaka, Nezu and Sendaigi, full of gorgeous temples and old buildings. Located at the west side of the metropolis, it is a very peaceful place where it feels good to take a slow stroll around traditional shops.
It can be tough sometimes, to find your way around an unknown neighbourhood. Here are some suggestions to help you through your journey:
Yanaka Ginza, the main shopping district of the Yanaka district. Don't confuse it with the other Ginza which is very modern with its buildings and department stores. Yanaka Ginza is close to the Nippori station, and you can shop at numerous traditional shops. Sweets, tea, kimono, small tools such as bowls, chopsticks, plates, it is a perfect place to buy souvenirs at a reasonable price. Do not hesitate to fully explore the adjacing streets: you won't find much to buy but you will experiment time travel into an older Japan.
The Nezu Jinja shrine, a wonderful and still quite unknown shinto sanctuary in the middle of the Nezu district. From April until May, Nezu shrine bathes in colour of thousands of blooming azalea that are celebrated during the Tsutsuji Matsuri festival. Many of its buildings are registered at the japanese patrimony and you will find you way thanks to the succession of red portals (Torii), a bit similar to the one at the Inari Jinja shrine in Kyoto.
Scai the Bathhouse, this old public bath has been transformed into a modern art gallery. Its exhibits change regularly and the entrance is free: therefore you can come back as many time as you want and discover new artists. Speaking of artists, many top contemporary art personnalities such as Anish Kapoor, Lee Ufan or Apichatpong Weerasethakul have exhibited their art. Scai has slowly became a major place for Tokyoite art.
Yushima Tenjin, a very old Shinto shrine from 458! It is dedicated to the God of learning, which is why every year, a multitude of students or anyone passing a test soon, come to pray for their academic success. The sanctuary also hosts two annual festival: the plum blossom in February, and the Yushima Tenjin festival consisting of traditional dances, drums with the famous japanese taiko and floating shrines.
To top it off, do not hesitate to try some local food at one of the many traditional restaurants or to take a break over a drink at Ueno Sakuragi Atari, an old traditional house changed into a bar specialised in draft beer (you can even attend a testing session).
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