谷根千 (YANESEN) area: Time travel to the past in Tokyo

Walking around 澤の屋 (SAWANOYA) Ryokan


“谷根千 (YANESEN)”, which stands for “谷中 (YANAKA)”, “根津 (NEZU)”, “千駄木 (SENDAGI)”, is the place where you can rarely see a traditional & retro town in Tokyo. Around here, there are a lot of old & Japanese traditional buildings of TAISHO and SHOWA Periods remain, partially because this area was not attacked at Air Raid on Tokyo of World War 2 miraculously.


谷中 (YANAKA) is the area where a lot of temples gather and SAWANOYA RYOKAN is also located in this area. There are a lot of shops and restaurants which 古民家 (KOMINKA / Japanese old and traditional house) have been renovated nicely. “谷中銀座商店街 (YANAKA GINZA Shipping Street)” is also located in this area.


Related article: “SAWANOYA RYOKAN” – Japanese typical RYOKAN in Tokyo


千駄木 (SENDAGI) is the classical residence area and this area also has some memorial halls and museums.


根津 (NEZU) area is famous for its representing shrine “根津神社 (NEZU Shrine)”, where has 3000 trees of azalea which you should see in the spring.


谷根千 (YANESEN) is the best area for you to walk around to feel the old Tokyo, and you will feel as if you are traveling into the past. Now, let me share you my recommended places here.


Walking around 谷根千 (YANESEN)


There are a lot of nice shops and restaurants which look very old and nostalgic. I would recommend you to walk around here in spring or autumn, when the climate and temperature are the best for you to walk around.


KAMENOKO TAWASHI – A shop of scrubbing brushes


TSUBAME BOOKS – A book store


A shop with a lot of greens.


Not just the main streets, but walking around back streets is also fun. Let’s wander around like a cat.


AKITAYA – A miso shop


KITCHEN MARO – A local restaurant serving western food.





SCAI THE BATHHOUSE – This used to be a SENTO (public bath) in the past and was renovated to a gallery.


O GYO CHI – A restaurant serving Taiwanese sweets




There are a lot of cafes around this area where you can take a rest during your walk. I love “lemon ginger soda”.


根津神社 (NEZU Shrine)


NEZU Shrine is registered as an Important Cultural Properties in Japan which is said that 日本武尊 (YAMATO TAKERU) built more than 1900 years ago, and some of very old buildings and gates which 徳川綱吉 (TSUNAYOSHI TOKUGAWA), 5th SHOGUN at EDO Period built in 1706 still remain.




Here you can see 千本鳥居 (SENBON TORII) which is so many red TORII (gateway of Shinto Shrine) standing like a tunnel. Although you can see this SENBON TORII in KYOTO as well, but it is surprising that can be also seen in TOKYO.




There is つつじ園 (Azalea garden) at this shrine. Although when I visited here this time at the end of June was a bit late, if you visit there between early April to early May, you can enjoy vivid azalea flowers.



At this NEZU Shrine, the religious ritual called “大祓 (O’HARAE)・茅の輪くぐり (CHINOWA KUGURI)” is taken place on 30th June every year, which is to pray to avoid any diseases and accidents as well as to withstand the hot summer. It is also called “夏越の祓 (NAGOSHI NO HARAE)”. There is also one more ritual called “年越の祓 (TOSHIKOSHI NO HARAE)” at the end of December, and both of them have been very important religious rituals for people to avoid any diseases or accidents.


First you bow once in front of 茅の輪 (CHINOWA / a hoop made of KAYA grass), pass through the hoop with your left foot, then go round in a counter-clockwise direction and come back to the original position, and bow again. Next, pass through it with your right foot, then go round in a clockwise direction and come back to the original position, and bow again. Lastly, pass through it with your left foot again, then go round in a counter-clockwise direction and come back to the original position, and bow again. At last, pass through it with your left foot again and proceed to the main building to pray.


This will be very valuable experience for you.



Eating 串カツ (KUSHIKATSU / Deep fried skewers) at historical building.


“はん亭 (HANTEI)” is a KUSHIKATSU (Deep fried skewers) restaurant of three stories wooden building which is a Registered Tangible Cultural Properties built during TAISHO Period. They have table seats as well as Japanese style 座敷 (ZASHIKI) seats where you take off your shoes.


They serve deep fried skewers of fresh seasonal foods. Although it’s fried, it is not heavy and so juicy and you can enjoy nice flavor of fresh foods. It is better to reserve a table in advance.









Address: 2-12-15, Nezu, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo

Tel: 03-3828-1440

Open everyday except Monday

Lunch: 11:30 am – 3:00 pm

Dinner: 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm




“TAYORI” is a restaurant serving 惣菜 (side dishes), BENTO, and coffee. It is located inside the back street of 谷中銀座 (YANAKA GINZA). Their name “TAYORI” comes from “お便り(OTAYORI)” in Japanese which means “a letter or hearing from someone”, and they named it by themselves because they wanted to become the place where people who eat, cook, and produce are connected with each other, just like they send letters to each other. Actually there is a space inside the restaurant where you can write a letter to the agricultural producers of the foods served here. Next time you visit this restaurant, you might receive the response from them. It is quite interesting and engaging. This is why the signboard at the entrance shows a postman riding bicycle.






They also have 座敷 seats (ZASHIKI / Japanese style seats), and it is the best place for those who accompany small kids. They have variety of menu of organic baby foods for each age which is quite friendly to the guests with babies or kids.




Address: 3-12-4, Yanaka, Taito Ward, Tokyo

Tel: 03-5834-7026




Although 谷中 (YANAKA) area has a river, it is flowing under the town and you cannot see it now. In the past, there used to be a lot of 染物屋 (SOMEMONOYA / Dyer / Dyehouse) along the river, and they washed dyed goods at the river. Now there is a road called “へび道 (HEBI MICHI / Snake Road)” right on the river. This road is winding like a snake because it used to be a river.


丁子屋 (CHOJIYA) which is located along this road is a traditional dyer which opened in 1895. They are selling a variety of towels and handkerchiefs with beautiful Japanese scenery dyed. With the traditional dying technique called “注染 (CHUSEN)”, their products are dyed very beautifully and both the front and back sides are dyed in the same pattern, which is totally different from printed goods.





Address: 2-32-8, Nezu, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo

Tel: 03-3821-4064

Open from 11:00 am – 6:00 pm

Regular holiday: Monday and Tuesday




One of the representing foods in summer in Tokyo is ANAGO (conger eel). “すし乃池 (SUSHI NO IKE)” is a SUSHI restaurant which is famous for “江戸前あなご (EDOMAE ANAGO / Tokyo-style conger eel)”. It is a well-established ANAGO restaurant where celebrities in various fields often come.


Their ground floor has a typical SUSHI counter, and the 2nd floor has 座敷 seats (ZASHIKI / Japanese style seats).


ANAGO SUSHI: ANAGO is so soft and dissolved in my mouth. It is super tasty!!


Side dishes of seasonal foods which perfectly match with Japanese Sake.


谷中生姜 (YANAKA SHOGA / YANAKA Ginger) is also perfect with Japanese Sake when you eat it with miso.


SASHIMI is also super fresh.




Address: 3-2-3, Yanaka, Taito Ward, Tokyo

Tel: 03-3821-3922

Monday to Saturday (Closed on every Wednesday)

Lunch at 11:30 am – 2:00 pm

Dinner at 4:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Sunday and public holiday

Open at 11:30 am – 8:00 pm




上野桜木あたり (UENO SAKURAGI ATARI) is a community where several renovated 古民家 (Japanese old building) built in 1938 gather and have a lot of unique shops and restaurants such as “Kayaba Bakery”, “Yanaka Beer hall”, and “Salt & Olive OshiOlive”.








Address: 2-15-6 Ueno Sakuragi, Taito Ward, Tokyo


みぢゃげど (MIJAGEDO)


An old owner and his wife are from AOMORI Prefecture and they serve AOMORI cuisines here. It is located along the HEBI MICHI and it looks quite nostalgic and nice. It is felt just like you are visiting granpa’s home. They only serve “津軽そば (TSUGARU SOBA)” for lunch and it is really nice.




みぢゃげど (MIJAGEDO)

Address: 2-5-10, Yanaka, Taito Ward, Tokyo


谷中銀座商店街 (YANAKA GINZA Shopping Street)


There are only three of Japanese old traditional shopping streets which are still active in Tokyo. Here 谷中銀座商店街 (YANAKA GINZA Shopping Street) is one of them. You can feel and touch Tokyo’s retro and nostalgic atmosphere here.


It is relieving to know that Tokyo still has this kind of retro-inspired place where you can really feel the warmth of people.



“夕焼けだんだん (YUYAKE DANDAN)” is the name of a slope or stairs at YANAKA GINZA. From here, you can view the scenery of the town, and the sunset is quite nice. Although it is not visible now, Mt. Fuji was also visible from here in the past, and this is why the hotel located right next to this slope was named “富士見旅館 (FUJIMI RYOKAN)”.



谷根千 (YANESEN) area is where you can feel and touch the retro and nostalgic atmosphere of the old Tokyo as if you travel into the past. Why don’t you visit there and feel it?


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