Did you know that it's possible to time travel to a retro Japan just 10 minutes by train from Tokyo Station? Unlike redevelopment areas like Shinjuku or Shibuya in central Tokyo, Yanaka Ginza still retains the nostalgic old town culture of Tokyo.

The popular Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street in the Yanaka Ginza area has over 60 stores lining the 170-meter street. Additionally, the serene Yanaka Cemetery allows visitors to enjoy the majestic natural surroundings and views of the Tokyo Skytree. These two spots are within walking distance, so be sure to make them destinations on your self-guided walking tour while enjoying the nostalgic Tokyo streets. 

Furthermore, Yanaka Ginza is known as a cat town where many cats reside due to the area's environment. As a cat lover, I sometimes visit Yanaka Ginza even without any particular plans.

This time, I'll introduce some recommended Yanaka Ginza walking tours as well as spots to check out on a self-guided Yanaka Ginza itinerary.

Which is Better: Self-Guided or Guided Tour?

Pros and Cons of a Self-Guided Tour

The advantage of a self-guided tour is that you can sightsee without worrying about time and choose places you personally want to visit. Another benefit is that it's easy to change plans.

The downside is that in unfamiliar countries, it can be difficult to easily visit wherever you want, and there are often different rules you need to be careful about. Additionally, you have to plan out the places to go, research operating hours, and figure out transportation for everywhere on your own.

Pros and Cons of a Guided Tour

The benefit of taking a guided tour is having a guide to easily ask any questions, as well as being able to efficiently visit recommended spots.

On a tour with a pre-planned itinerary, you also know the operating hours beforehand, so meals and activities can proceed smoothly. The downside is less flexibility since the schedule is predetermined. If you have specific places in mind, a private tour is recommended so you can consult the guide.

Recommended Yanaka Ginza Walking Tours

Yanaka Walking Tour The Old Quarter of Tokyo

Yanaka Walking Tour The Old Quarter of Tokyo
Source: Tokyo Localized

This tour starts from JR Nippori Station, visits famous temples and shrines in the Yanaka area, lets you experience nature at the vast cemetery, and returns to JR Nippori Station.  

While walking through Yanaka, you'll visit the Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street which has many delicious food options for a food tour.

Walking through the residential areas also allows you to catch a glimpse of the daily life in Tokyo's local towns, which is another highlight of this "Yanaka Walking Tour." In 3 hours, you can enjoy everything from Japan's religious culture to the old town's lively atmosphere.

>> Details: https://www.tokyolocalized.com/old-quarter-yanaka-walking-tour

Yanaka Historical Walking Tour in Tokyo's Old Town

Yanaka Historical Walking Tour in Tokyo's Old Town

This tour starts at Nezu Station, visits the beautiful torii gate at Nezu Shrine, then walks to Yanaka Ginza and takes a break at Cafe Nekoemon. At the cafe, you can experience painting a Maneki-neko (beckoning cat figurine). You'll create your very own one-of-a-kind welcoming cat!

After the painting experience, you'll move to a Japanese restaurant for a delicious lunch. The tour ends at Yanaka Station. This tour lets you fully experience the highlights of Nezu Shrine and the old town culture of Yanaka Ginza, along with a nice meal and unique activity.    

Details >> https://www.magical-trip.com/product/460ceb6f-0099-47a6-a447-2de274da7e9f

Experience Old and Nostalgic Tokyo: Yanaka Walking Tour

Experience Old Yanaka Walking Tour
Source: Trip Designer

Starting from JR Nippori Station, this tour visits must-see temples, shrines, and the vast, unique cemetery in Yanaka to experience the area's rich nature. You'll also feel the nostalgic old Tokyo at the Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street. There's an additional fee for an afternoon tea ceremony experience.

This "Experience Old and Nostalgic Tokyo: Yanaka Walking Tour" allows you to learn about Japan's religious traditions at temples and shrines while also experiencing the lively old town culture.  

Details >> https://omakase-tour.com/tours/traditional-culture/yanaka-wandering-tour.html

Recommended Spots on a Self-Guided Yanaka Ginza Itinerary

Yuyake Dandan

Yuyake-dandan
Source: Jalan

Yuyake Dandan is a set of stairs connecting JR Nippori Station to the Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street. The stairs got their name because they offer a beautiful view of the sunset. Especially during the "magic hour" right after sunset, the scenery looks fantastic.

Taking a photo from the top captures both the retro shopping street below and the sunset in one frame. Be sure to add this nostalgic, beautiful old town scenery to your memories. There's also a chance you may spot cats resting on the stairs if you visit during a less crowded weekday afternoon.

Yanaka Cemetery

Yanaka Cemetery

Yanaka Cemetery is a vast cemetery so large that two Tokyo Stations could fit inside. It's one of the few places in Tokyo where you can experience rich natural scenery like cherry blossoms, fresh greenery, and fall foliage. With over 7,000 graves including some unique tombs of famous people, it's perfect for cemetery exploration.  

On a clear day, you can even see the Tokyo Skytree peeking out, creating almost a surreal scene of the tower sprouting from the lush nature. It's also a relatively cat-friendly area, so cat lovers should definitely add it to their itinerary.

<Basic Information>
- Access: 6-minute walk from JR/Keisei Nippori Station  
- Address: Yanaka 7-chome, Taito-ku
- Hours: 24 hours
- Admission: Free  

<Management Office Hours>  
- 8:30am - 5:30pm

Tennoji Temple

Tenno-ji
Source: Tendai Tokyo Website

Located in a corner of Yanaka Cemetery, Tennoji Temple has a serene atmosphere despite being in the city center. A highlight is seeing both traditional temple architecture and modern buildings harmoniously side-by-side.

You can also view the Genroku Daibutsu, a 1690 statue of Seated Buddha. During the cherry blossom season, the weeping cherry tree at Tennoji is exceptionally beautiful.

<Basic Information>
- Access: 2-minute walk from JR/Keisei Nippori Station South Exit
- Address: Yanaka 7-chome 14-8, Taito-ku

Asakura Sculpture Museum

Asakura Cho-so kan
Source: Official Facebook

The Asakura Sculpture Museum displays many sculptures by the artist Fumio Asakura. Asakura's former home and studio has been converted into this museum, with the building itself designed by Asakura.

At the center is the "Goten no Ike" pond which covers most of the premises, creating a fantastical atmosphere. The rooftop garden blooms with seasonal flowers like olive trees and roses.

<Basic Information>
- Access: 5-minute walk from JR/Keisei Nippori Station West Exit
- Address: Yanaka 7-chome 18-10, Taito-ku
- Phone: 03-3821-4549
- Admission: 500 yen
- Hours: 9:30am - 4:30pm (last entry 4:00pm)
- Closed: Mondays, Thursdays (or following weekday if a holiday), New Year's
* May have temporary closures for exhibition changes
- Official Website: https://www.taitogeibun.net/asakura/

Nezu Shrine

Nezu Shrine
Source: Official Website

Nezu Shrine is famous for its thousands of torii gates reminiscent of Fushimi Inari in Kyoto, as well as the Tsutsuji Garden with 3,000 azalea bushes in full bloom in April. Though the garden is only open in April, I was amazed by its beauty when I visited and highly recommend trying to go during that timeframe.

All seven structures including the main hall and gates are designated national cultural properties due to their historical value and beautiful lacquered finish. With the famous torii gates, azalea garden, and architecturally significant buildings, there's plenty to see here.

<Basic Information>  
- Access: 5-minute walk from Nezu or Sendagi Stations on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line
- Address: Nezu 1-28-9, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
- Phone: 03-3822-0753  
- Hours: Nov-Jan 9:30am - 4:30pm / Feb & Oct 9:30am - 5:00pm / Mar-Sep 9:30am - 5:30pm  

<Tsutsuji Garden>
- Open: Every April  
- Admission: 500 yen (subject to change)
- Hours: 9:30am - 5:30pm
- Official Website: https://nedujinja.or.jp/

Recommended Cafes & Restaurants

Onigiri Cafe "Risaku"

Onigiri Cafe Risaku
Source: Risaku Official Website

Onigiri rice balls are a quintessential Japanese food, popular for eating on-the-go. At Onigiri Cafe Risaku, you can enjoy carefully prepared onigiri, miso soup, and other Japanese foods. They offer a wide variety of delicious onigiri flavors.   

My personal recommendation is the cheese-okaka (bonito flakes) onigiri. In addition to onigiri, they also serve set meals, side dishes, and desserts. They take their coffee seriously, offering cafe-quality brews. Takeout is also available if you prefer.

<Basic Information>
- Access: 1-minute walk from Sendagi Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line  
- Address: Bunkyo-ku, Sendagi 2-31-6
- Phone: 03-5834-7292
- Hours: 9:00am - 8:00pm  
- Closed: Wednesdays
- Official Website: https://www.risaku-tokyo.com/

Cafe Nekoemon

Cafe Nekoemon
Source: Cafe Nekoemon Official Website

Cafe Nekoemon is a cafe converted from a 90-year-old traditional house. In addition to coffee, cake, cookies, they also offer lunch menus and beer.  

A highlight is their Maneki-neko (beckoning cat) figurine painting experience. The maneki-neko is a lucky cat statue believed to bring good fortune. At this cafe, you can enjoy a drink while painting your own original design.

I highly recommend making your very own unique maneki-neko souvenir.

<Basic Information>  
- Access: 6-minute walk from Sendagi Station on Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, 10 minutes from JR/Keisei/Tsukuba Express Nippori Station
- Address: Yanaka 5-chome 4-3, Taito-ku
- Phone: 03-3822-2297
- Hours: 10:30am - 5:30pm
- Closed: Mondays (or following weekday if a holiday)
- Official Website: https://yanakado.com/c_nekoemon.html

Kabaya Coffee

Kayaba Coffee
Source: Tabelog

Kabaya Coffee is a renovated traditional Japanese house cafe. The first floor has 4 Western-style tables while the second floor offers traditional tatami mat seating connected by a steep staircase reminiscent of old homes.

Their popular menu items include the tamagosando (egg sandwich) and pudding. I personally recommend their "Russian" drink which mixes coffee and cocoa. The firm pudding will remind you of the taste of classic Japanese cafes.

<Basic Information>  
- Access: 10-minute walk from JR Nippori Station, 10 minutes from Nezu Station on Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line
- Address: Yanaka 6-chome 1-29, Taito-ku   
- Phone: 03-4361-3115
- Hours: 8:00am - 6:00pm (Last food order 5:00pm, last drink order 5:30pm)
- Closed: Mondays (or following weekday if a holiday)  
- instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kayabacoffee/
- Reservations: https://yoyaku.toreta.in/kayabacoffee/#/

Recommended Yanaka Ginza Area Shops

Shops Selling Japanese Handicrafts

TAMARU

Tamaru
Source: Yanaka Ginza Official Website

Tamaru on the Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street originally started as a tribute to three famous rakugo storytellers. It is the only shop nationwide that sells original products themed on those storytellers, including their famous tenugui hand towels.

They also sell handmade goods like pouches, figurines, and more. Their original "Yanaka-Nezu-Sendagi" postcard can only be purchased at this one shop across Japan. Consider getting a Tamaru original item as a souvenir or memento of your Yanaka stroll.

<Basic Information>
- Address: Yanaka 3-chome 11-15, Taito-ku
- Phone: 03-5814-4425  
- Hours: 10:00am - 7:00pm
- Closed: Irregular  
- Official Website: https://x.gd/8xRQmM

Edo Mingei Amehiko

Amehiko
Source: Yanaka Ginza Official Website

Edo Mingei Amehiko is like stepping back in time with its nostalgic Japanese products including folk crafts, traditional toys, lucky charms and more. 

In Japan, there is a custom of displaying dolls in March for girls and May for boys, praying for healthy growth. Amehiko has these seasonal dolls on display. They also showcase wind chimes for summer and zodiac ornaments for winter to highlight Japan's cultural traditions for each season.

All of their items are beautifully handcrafted by artisans, so be sure to appreciate the craftsmanship up close.

<Basic Information>
- Address: Yanaka 3-chome 11-14, Taito-ku
- Phone: 03-3828-1729
- Hours: 10:00am - 6:00pm
- Closed: Tuesdays
- Official Website: https://x.gd/7ZErU

Takekogei Midoriya

Midoriya
Source: Yanaka Ginza Official Website

Takekogei Midoriya has been a bamboo craft specialty store since 1908, offering unique items like flower baskets, chopsticks, coasters and bookmarks made from warm, pliable bamboo. A highlight is their products made from "susudake" - the prized bamboo soot collected only from the roofs and ceilings of thatched houses.

As each handmade item is one-of-a-kind, I recommend browsing their selection in person and choosing a special bamboo craft that resonates with you to appreciate the flexibility and strength of this material.

<Basic Information>
- Address: Arakawa-ku, Nishi-Nippori 3-13-3
- Phone: 03-3828-7522  
- Hours: 11:00am - 6:00pm
- Closed: Mondays
- Official Website: https://x.gd/EO6V6

Shops Selling Cat-Themed Goods

Nuno Fussen

Nuno Fusen
Source: Yanaka Ginza Official Website

Nuno Fussen is a cat goods store where the shop manager is the black cat Shinchan. What started as a handmade crafts shop in 2010 evolved into a cat goods store after the stray Shinchan wandered in and made himself the "Operating Director."  

Run by cat lovers, the staff naturally attracts like-minded feline fans. As a cat person myself, I inevitably end up lingering due to the overwhelming amount of adorable cat merchandise. Chatting with the staff about cats is also very enjoyable, so I highly recommend stopping by if you love cats.

<Basic Information>
- Address: Yanaka 3-chome 11-14, Taito-ku
- Phone: 03-5685-6788
- Hours: 10:30am - 6:00pm  
- Closed: Irregular
- Official Website: https://x.gd/HDltf

Neco Auction

Neco action
Source: Neco Auction Official Website

Neco Auction is a cat goods shop that opened in 2009, located just before the Yuyake Dandan stairs. It's packed to the brim with all kinds of cat-themed merchandise.

In addition to their own original goods, they also sell collaborative items and works by individual artists for a more handcrafted feel. The owner's cat Maakun has an especially adorable product line.

Pick up some Neco Auction cat goods to add a touch of cuteness to your daily life!

<Basic Information>  
- Access: 5-minute walk from JR Nippori Station West Exit, near Yuyake Dandan
- Address: Arakawa-ku, Nishi-Nippori 3-10-5
- Hours: 11:00am - 6:00pm
- Closed: Mondays (open if a holiday)
- Official Website: https://necoaction.com/


Yanaka Ginza is a wonderful area to experience the nostalgic streets and old town culture of Tokyo, as well as spots to learn about Japan's religious heritage and natural scenery. With delicious food, traditional handicrafts, and its reputation as a cat town, there is so much to enjoy that it's hard to decide where to go.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the choices, I highly recommend taking a guided tour for a fulfilling experience.

Recommended Tour >> Yanaka Historical Walking Tour in Tokyo's Old Town