If you're tired of the crowds at Tokyo Station and famous tourist spots, why not take it easy in Yanaka Ginza with its nostalgic Showa-era streets? 

The underdeveloped Yanaka Ginza retains scenery that feels like you've time-traveled to old Tokyo. The Yanaka Ginza shopping street is particularly famous for its many small shops where you can enjoy gourmet food and shopping. There are also many shrines and temples, as well as places to enjoy nature. Furthermore, the Yanaka area is renowned as a "cat town," making it irresistible for cat lovers.

Among the many charms of Yanaka Ginza, we'd like to introduce the lush, natural Yanaka Cemetery.

Highlights of Yanaka Cemetery

Yanaka Cemetery
Source: Jaran

Established in 1874, Yanaka Cemetery is a metropolitan cemetery where many famous figures are laid to rest. With an area of about 10 hectares, it's large enough to fit more than two Tokyo Stations.

There are over 7,000 graves in Yanaka Cemetery, surrounded by lush greenery. However, as it's a cemetery, few come to play, allowing you to quietly view the nature and graves.

Here are five highlights of Yanaka Cemetery's charm:

Cherry Blossom Tunnel "Sakura-dori"

Yanaka Cemetery-sakura
Source: Jaran

Yanaka Cemetery is renowned for its cherry blossoms. The main street is named Sakura-dori (Cherry Blossom Street), where the cherry trees form a stunning tunnel in spring. This cherry tree-lined path stretches for about 300 meters.

While visitors come for hanami (cherry blossom viewing), picnicking is strictly prohibited as it is a cemetery. This allows you to enjoy the cherry blossoms in relative tranquility compared to other spots. In addition to photographing the cherry blossoms, you can appreciate the scattered petals on the ground and the tunnel of blossoms overhead - truly a breathtaking sight that I witnessed myself. I'd highly recommend taking your time to stroll and soak it all in.

Enjoy the Fresh Greens and Fall Foliage

With its vast grounds, Yanaka Cemetery is blessed with abundant nature, a rare treat in Tokyo. While the cherry blossom season is spectacular, you can also enjoy the tender green hues of early summer, the deep rich greens of summer, and the brilliant reds and yellows of autumn foliage.

Particularly in fall, the ginkgo trees turn a vibrant yellow and the Japanese maples blaze red, creating a mesmerizing scene. As with the cherry blossom season, picnicking and parties are prohibited, allowing you to peacefully take in the colorful scenery.

View of the Tokyo Skytree

yanaka cemetery-sky tree
Source: TripAdvisor

With no tall buildings inside, you can catch a view of the iconic Tokyo Skytree from certain vantage points within the cemetery grounds, as long as the skies are clear. The northern side is higher up, offering the best views of the Skytree.  

During cherry blossom season in particular, if conditions are favorable, you may be able to capture a photo of the Skytree peeking out from the Sakura tunnel along Sakura-dori. With the low-rise surroundings, this symbolic Tokyo landmark comes into view, making for a unique photo opportunity.

Serene and Tranquil Atmosphere

Spanning over 10 hectares, Yanaka Cemetery rarely feels crowded, exuding an overall serene and tranquil ambiance. However, visitors do tend to increase during the Obon festival in mid-August, New Year's, and the equinoctial weeks in March and September when Japanese families traditionally visit and tend to their ancestors' graves.

Even with more visitors during these periods, the solemn atmosphere of the cemetery is maintained, allowing you to spend unhurried, peaceful moments there.

High Chance of Spotting Cats

Yanaka Cemetery-cat
Source: TripAdvisor

Yanaka Ginza is a must-visit for cat lovers, as there are high chances of encountering cats. While the official mascot of the Yanaka Ginza shopping street is a cat and you may spot real ones there, the crowds could scare them away.

On the other hand, Yanaka Cemetery's spacious grounds, low visitor density, and tranquil atmosphere make it a comfortable environment for cats. Volunteers also feed them, increasing your chances of spotting multiple cats, depending on the time of day.

Variety of Grave Designs

With over 7,000 graves, Yanaka Cemetery features a diverse array of designs. The most common style is the traditional Japanese "wagata-boiseki," with three stacked stones - the top bearing the family name, and a space at the bottom to store ashes.  

Other styles include "yo-gata" (Western-style horizontal headstones) and custom-designed graves reflecting the deceased's interests or pre-selected designs. These designed graves can be quite unique, featuring gold leaf, carved celestial maidens, shogi piece motifs, and more.

Easily Accessible from Yanaka Ginza and Ueno Park

Yanaka Cemetery is a 6-minute walk from JR Nippori Station on the JR and Keisei lines. It's also within walking distance of the Yanaka Ginza shopping street (about 6 minutes) and Ueno Park (around 15 minutes).  

My recommended route is to stroll through the retro streets of Yanaka Ginza, take a breather at the cemetery's natural surroundings, and then continue on to Ueno Park.

Opening Hours & Admission

Yanaka Cemetery is open 24 hours and free to enter, with no closing gates. However, maps are only available during the management office's operating hours, so take note.

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

Recommended Cafes Near Yanaka Cemetery

Cafe&Bar Hanaju Yanaka Chaya

Source: Tabelog

Newly opened in July 2023, Hanaju Yanaka Chaya is a cafe created by renovating part of a 150-year-old florist shop. Located right in front of Yanaka Cemetery, look for the "Hanaju" text and large purple noren curtain.

In addition to popular French toast, they offer seasonal desserts like sakura monburan, sweet potato brûlée, and original moon cakes, as well as a variety of drinks. With several limited quantity items, it's recommended to arrive early. My pick is the limited sweet potato brûlée.

<Store Details>
- Address: 7-5-27 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: Tuesdays, 4th Wednesday of the month
- Phone: 03-5834-8871  
- Hours: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm (Bar hours until 8:00 pm on irregular dates)
- instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hanaju_yanaka_chaya/


Source: Tabelog

spiq is a tiny bakery that just opened in February 2024, located near Sakura-dori in Yanaka Cemetery. Look for the small white sign with four irregularly shaped light blue circles.  

If available, you can use the shared terrace. They offer seasonally changing baked goods, coffee, and tea. I recommend the meticulously brewed Guatemalan iced drip coffee. Their closed weekdays vary monthly, so check their Instagram before visiting.

<Store Details>
- Address: 1F Yamaka Apartment, 7-5-25 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: Weekdays off vary monthly (Mondays & Tuesdays in May)
- Hours: 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
- instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spiq.yanaka/  

Yanaka Cemetery boasts lush, well-maintained natural surroundings perfect for enjoying cherry blossoms, fall foliage, and more. However, remember this is a resting place for many, so be respectful of those visiting graves by keeping noise to a minimum.

Picnicking is prohibited year-round, so consider the nearby cafes and restaurants instead.

I highly recommend exploring Yanaka on foot to fully experience the area. In that spirit, I'd like to suggest this tour departing from Nezu Station and walking to Yanaka Station. Along the way, you'll visit a historic café, enjoy drinks and desserts, and even try your hand at painting a Maneki-neko (Beckoning Cat) figure - a great way to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and Yanaka's charming atmosphere.

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