In Tokyo, large-scale redevelopment is rapidly progressing, centered on major areas. Shibuya and Azabu have already drastically transformed, and even we Japanese are surprised by the extent of the changes when we visit after a long absence. While futuristic city development will continue, areas preserving the old townscapes are also attracting attention.

One such area is the Yanaka Ginza district. Loved by locals as a downtown area since the 1950s, it has also been quietly popular as a sightseeing spot. In spring, you can enjoy the spectacular cherry blossoms at "Yanaka Reien" cemetery, the beautiful sunset at "Yuyake Dandan" steps, and most of all, the highlight is the Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street itself. Lined with various shops like eateries, set-meal restaurants, and Japanese sundry stores, it's a nostalgic shopping street perfect for strolling and eating along the way.

Another characteristic of the Yanaka area is the deep-rooted culture of Japanese-style "kissaten" cafes dating back to the Meiji and Taisho eras (1860s-1920s). While many long-established cafes remain, new-style cafes have also emerged. Among them, I recommend "Yanaka Kenshindo."

Reasons to Recommend Yanaka Kenshindo

Overlooks Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street

View from the cafe
Source: TripAdvisor

Yanaka Kenshindo is a souvenir shop-cafe where you can find unique Japanese sundries and original Japanese sweets. Located right at the entrance of Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street, just down the Yuyake Dandan steps, the shop is marked by a poster of a samurai-clad polar bear character.

Climbing the small staircase in the building leads to a bright, serene space with large windows overlooking Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street. Sitting at the counter seats facing the windows, you can enjoy the famous "Mizuanmitsu" sweet frozen dessert or matcha green tea while gazing at the evening sky turning a burnt orange color - it's the ultimate experience!

No matter how much urban development progresses, you can experience the cherished downtown atmosphere of Tokyo that has been carefully preserved, soothing your travel fatigue.

Unique Japanese Souvenirs and Sundries

Source: Official website

While enjoying cafe time, be sure to look for souvenirs too. Yanaka Kenshindo offers a wide variety of lovely Japanese sundries that you'll want to get for yourself, family, and friends. In addition to their original polar bear character goods, they carry many authentic folk craft items, making them perfect gifts for those who love traditional Japanese culture.

For yourself or close friends, you may want to choose cute animal figurines, the polar bear character can badges, star-shaped rice crackers ("arare"), and other uniquely Yanaka Kenshindo original items at reasonable prices.

For superiors or important people, you could give Japanese traditional items like cypress wood mugs or tin "guinomi" cups for alcoholic beverages, allowing them to appreciate the Japanese aesthetic.

Drinks & Sweets with a Focus on Japanese Ingredients

Source: Official website

At Yanaka Kenshindo, you'll find an array of drinks and sweets focused on Japanese ingredients that evoke the nation's four seasons. Each menu item is uniquely crafted with special twists, reflecting Yanaka Kenshindo's playful spirit.

The traditional "anmitsu" dessert and "dango" dumplings introduced later come with Instagram-worthy decorations. Their ingredients are rearranged each season, providing a fresh taste whenever you visit.

Any of the sweets pair wonderfully with the bittersweet Uji matcha green tea served, of course, but also coffee! The drinks are sometimes served in high-quality wooden cups sold in the shop, letting you experience their appeal as potential souvenirs.

Recommended Cafe Menu Items at Yanaka Kenshindo

Shiratama Mizuanmitsu (White Dumpling and Jelly Dessert)

Source: Tabelog

Among the many sweets, my top recommendation is the "Shiratama Mizuanmitsu" (White Dumpling Jelly Dessert).

Regular anmitsu desserts typically contain kanten jelly, sweet red bean paste, fruit, and beans. However, this version uniquely uses water jelly instead of kanten.

This water jelly's surprising transparency and plump, jiggly texture is incredibly addictive. It's made using natural water from the Oze region, selected as one of Japan's famous water sources (high-quality natural springs, rivers, or groundwater from around the country).

In spring, it's lightly scented with cherry blossom syrup. In summer, it's chilled for a refreshing sensation. In fall, it has a crisp, fruity pear syrup flavor... Each season offers a new way to enjoy it. The iconic menu item is frequently featured on TV and in magazines, drawing many visitors.

Choko Dango (Chocolate-Covered Dumplings)

Choco Dango
Source: Tabelog

Don't miss dango dumplings, a quintessential Japanese snack. While three-colored (pink, green, white) dango or those with sweet red bean paste are staples sold at supermarkets and convenience stores, Yanaka Kenshindo's popular item is "Choko Dango" - chocolate-covered dango.

With colorful, cute toppings like doughnuts and watermelon-inspired designs and flavors, their adorable look appeals to foreign tourists too, earning reviews on TripAdvisor.

The plain dango dumplings themselves, made from rice, have a mild taste. However, they perfectly complement the sweetness of the chocolate coating. Since they're bite-sized, you can order an assortment to share with travel companions.

Frozen Mandarin Oranges

Frozen Mikan
Source: Official website

We, Japanese people, will feel nostalgic about this summer treat - frozen mandarin oranges ("Reito Mikan"), a must-try at Yanaka Kenshindo. Frozen mandarin oranges were often served for dessert in elementary and middle school lunches, and any leftovers would be snatched up by excited children - it was a beloved menu item!

As adults, we rarely encounter frozen mandarin oranges, so their presence at Yanaka Kenshindo is unique and gets Japanese people excited, including me!

Frozen mandarin oranges are simply whole mandarin frozen. They have a sherbet-like crunch and refreshing aftertaste, making them perfect for hot weather walks. It's best to eat them as-is at first, but you could also mix them into carbonated water for a fizzy, invigorating kick.

Takeaway is Also Recommended

While you'll want to linger for hours at the cozy Yanaka Kenshindo, the cafe only has 6 seats and doesn't take reservations. So using takeout is an option. Their signature mizuanmitsu dessert comes in a dedicated cup, and most menu items are available for takeout.

There are also takeaway-only items like the dengaku warabimochi (bracken-starch dumplings). These jelly-like dumplings on skewers can be carried around like ice candy - another unique offering. Since warabimochi made from bracken starch is low in sweetness and healthy, it's a great snack for those wanting to sample various foods.

Access to Yanaka Kenshindo

The nearest stations are Nippori Station on the JR Yamanote and Tokiwa lines, or Sendagi Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line, both about a 5-minute walk away.

・Address: 3-11-15 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
a. 4-minute walk from the west exit of JR Nippori Station, go down the Yuyake Dandan steps, shop is next to the entrance of Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street.
b. 5-minute walk from Exit 2 of Sendagi Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line, go through Yomise Street to Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street, shop is on the right.

Information for Yanaka Kenshindo

- Closed: Mondays to Fridays (Open on holidays)
- Phone: 03-4283-5200  
- Hours: 11:00am - 5:00pm (Last order 5:30pm) *Hours may vary by season
- Official Website: