Yanaka Ginza is a historic neighborhood with many shrines and temples, preserving the old-fashioned atmosphere amidst the ongoing redevelopment of Tokyo.

For me, someone who loves taking a stroll in the quiet morning hours, Yanaka is an incredibly charming area. The best place to visit in the morning is Nezu Shrine. You can leisurely take photos of the stunning 1,000 torii gates at the Otome Inari Shrine on the Nezu Shrine grounds when it's less crowded in the early morning.

Yanaka is also famous as a "cat town," so you may encounter some feline friends roaming the backstreets or Yanaka Cemetery in the morning hours.

While most shops on the Yanaka Ginza shopping street don't open until around 11am, it's best to arrive around noon to fully experience the retro atmosphere.

In this article, I'll introduce recommended ways to spend your morning in Yanaka Ginza and highlight some places that open early!

Photograph the Quiet Shopping Street!

Yuyake Dandan (Sunset Stairs)

Yuyake dandan
Source: Jalan

Yuyake Dandan (Sunset Stairs) is a stairway connecting to the Yanaka Ginza shopping street, about an 8-minute walk from the north exit of JR Nippori Station. True to its name, you can see beautiful sunsets from these west-facing stairs. The orange-tinted sky and the shopping street below make for a serene view.

It's recommended to take photos of the shopping street from the top of the stairs, but it's become difficult recently due to the influx of tourists. My recommendation is to visit in the early morning when there are fewer people around, allowing you to freely take pictures. While the morning sunlight comes from the east (opposite the stairs), you could sit on the steps and wait for the sunrise as well!

On weekday mornings, you'll see Yanaka neighbors going about their daily routines, letting you experience the area's local life. 

- Address: Near 3-13 Nishi-Nippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo

Seven Lucky Cat Statues on the Shopping Street


Along the Yanaka Ginza shopping street, there are seven wooden cat statues called the "Seven Lucky Cats." It's said that if you find all seven, you'll be blessed with good luck. Keep an eye out for them placed in front of shops or on rooftops!

However, the shopping street gets quite crowded during the day, making it difficult to thoroughly search for them. That's why I recommend going in the early morning before most shops open around 10-11 am when there are fewer people around.

One thing to note is that two of the cat statues are located inside a shop called Kanekichien, which is closed on Wednesdays (open 10 am-7 pm on other days). So if you want to see all seven, you'll need to visit during business hours.

With a leisurely pace, it should take around 30 minutes to walk the full length of the shopping street.

Seek Out the Neighborhood Cats

Yanaka Ginza is famous as a "cat town." During the Edo period (1603-1868), many of the area's temples kept cats to catch mice. With its narrow alleys and local feeding strays, Yanaka became a comfortable environment for cats to thrive.

While recent volunteer protection efforts have reduced the stray population, it's still possible to spot cats in Yanaka – especially in the quieter morning hours when they're more likely to be out and about. You may find them relaxing in backstreets, Yanaka Cemetery, or along Yuyake Dandan. They're absolutely adorable!

However, cat sightings can't be guaranteed, so it's best not to get your hopes too high. Consider it a pleasant surprise if you do come across any feline friends during your morning explorations.

Stroll Through Nature

Yanaka Cemetery

Yanaka Cemetary
Source: Jalan

If you're looking for a serene morning walk, I recommend visiting Yanaka Cemetery too. This historic graveyard, open 24/7, contains the grave of the last Tokugawa shogun and serves as a popular dog-walking course through its tranquil, lush gardens.

My favorite time to visit is during the cherry blossom season from late March to early April. While the stunning rows of blooming trees draw large crowds during the day, you can peacefully admire them in the early morning. Walking beneath the dramatic Sakura tunnels in the crisp morning air feels incredibly special.

The fall foliage from late November to early December is also stunning, showcasing brilliant autumn colors like golden ginkgo leaves. From the cemetery grounds, you can even spot the iconic Tokyo Skytree in the distance.   

<Basic Information>  
- Address: 7-5-24 Yanaka, Taito-ku  
- Closed: Open year-round
- Phone: 03-3821-4456 (8:30 am - 5:15 pm)
- Hours: 24 hours
- Official Website: https://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/reien/yanaka/index.html

Nezu Shrine

Nezu Shrine
Source: Official Website

Nezu Shrine is Tokyo's oldest and most beautifully lush shrine, with a history dating back over 1,900 years. The current vibrant structures were built in 1706 and have survived disasters and war, maintaining great historic value.

The shrine opens at 6am, making it perfect for morning visits. It's considered auspicious to pay respects in the morning when there are fewer visitors around, allowing you to soak in the tranquil atmosphere.  

My top recommendation is to see the 1,000 bright red torii gates of the Otome Inari Shrine tucked within Nezu Shrine's grounds. This unique "tunnel" formation draws big crowds during busier hours, but you can get beautiful photos in the quiet morning.

During the Tsutsuji (Azalea) Festival in April, I suggest arriving around 9:30 am when the garden opens to avoid the biggest rush.

<Basic Information>
- Address: 1-28-9 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo   
- Phone: 03-3822-0753
- View Hours:
Jan 6am-5pm, Feb 6am-5:30pm, Mar 6am-6pm, Apr & May 5:30am-6pm,
Jun-Aug 5am-6pm, Sept 5:30am-6pm, Oct 5:30am-5:30pm, Nov & Dec 6am-5pm *Jan 1: 12 am - 7 pm

- Shrine Shop Hours: 9:30 am - 30 mins before closing 
*Sundays/Holidays from 9 am. Jan 1 from 12 am.

- Closed: None  
- Official Website: https://nedujinja.or.jp/about/
- Azalea Garden Hours: 9:30 am - 5:30 pm 
- Admission: 500 yen (cash only)
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nedujinja_official/

Cafes & Restaurants Open in the Morning


Source: GRAPHY NEZU CAFE & LOUNGE Official Website

GRAPHY NEZU CAFE & LOUNGE is located on the first floor of a hotel, but is open to non-guests as well. Around 90% of hotel guests are from overseas, giving the cafe an international vibe. It's a 5-minute walk from Nezu Station but tucked in a residential area that can be tricky to find.

As they open at 7:30 am, it's ideal for an early breakfast. The stylish atmosphere allows you to start your day at a relaxed pace. I recommend the ratatouille soup and bread from a local bakery. The set also includes granola yogurt and a drink of your choice like coffee or tea.

For lunch, I'm a fan of their burgers which include beef, chicken, and even a vegan option. They're on the smaller side but packed with fillings and flavor.

Staying at the hotel could be a convenient way to fully immerse yourself in Yanaka's morning ambiance.

<Store Information>
- Address: 4-5-10 Ikenohata, Taito-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: Irregular
- Phone: 03-3828-7377
- Hours: Morning 7:30 am-11 am (Last Order 10:30 am)
Cafe 7:30 am-5 pm
Dinner/Bar 5 pm-10 pm (Last Order 9:30 pm)
- Official Website: https://www.livelyhotels.com/ja/hotelgraphy/eat-drink/
- Payment: Credit cards accepted (Visa, Mastercard, JCB, AMEX, Diners) 
   Electronic payment accepted (Suica, PASMO, ICOCA, QUICPay)


Source: CIBI Official Website

CIBI is a cafe started by a Japanese team in Melbourne, Australia, with two locations in Tokyo. The CIBI Tokyo store near Yanaka Ginza occupies a renovated warehouse space with an open, stylish interior.

They open bright and early, with hours from 8:30am on weekdays and 8am on weekends. I highly recommend the CIBI Breakfast – a simple yet satisfying plate with half-boiled eggs, avocado, house-made bread, and salad. It has a surprisingly hearty portion. The carrot cake is small but boasts wonderful spiced flavors and is easy to enjoy.

The morning menu is available until 11:30am. Since there aren't photos, it's best to check the menu ahead of time. Note that breakfast items and drinks require separate orders. While on the pricier side overall, it's a great option for a stylish morning meal.

You can also browse their kitchen goods and furniture selection while there. The relaxing ambiance will likely make you want to return again and again.

<Store Information>  
- Address: 3-37-11 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: None
- Phone: 03-5834-8045
- Hours: Weekdays 8:30am-4:30pm / Weekends 8am-5:30pm
- Official Website: https://www.cibi.jp/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cibi_tokyo/
- Payment: Credit cards, e-money, QR code (PayPay) accepted

Yanaka Ginza is a popular Tokyo neighborhood that lets you experience Japan's old town atmosphere. While it gets crowded with tourists during the day, making it hard to leisurely stroll, the early mornings offer a peaceful opportunity to wander and take photos free of crowds. Since most shops on the Yanaka Ginza shopping street don't open until around 11am, arriving around noon is efficient for sightseeing.  

For first-time visitors to the area, I recommend joining a Yanaka tour. Though it starts at 1:30pm, the 3.5-hour tour lets you fully experience Yanaka's shrines, traditional snacks, handicraft workshop, and more with an English-speaking local guide providing history and cultural insights.

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

Unlike the modern redevelopment seen in Shinjuku or Shibuya, Yanaka Ginza retains an atmospheric glimpse into Old Tokyo's charm – so be sure to visit and immerse yourself in its retro ambiance!