In Tokyo, where large-scale redevelopment is progressing, new buildings are being constructed one after another, and the old townscape is gradually being lost. In the midst of this, Yanaka Ginza is a precious area where the old shopping streets and townscapes remain at a location not far from the city center.

I was born in Showa and raised in a downtown area, it's a special place that evokes a sense of nostalgia. The Yanaka Ginza shopping street has about 60 shops in a row, and the atmospheric townscape continues for 170m. 

In the neighborhood, there are also historical buildings and unique shops dotted around, such as the beautiful Nezu Shrine with its vermilion torii gate, allowing you to easily stroll and feel the downtown atmosphere, making it a popular sightseeing spot for domestic and international visitors.

This time, I will focus on the gourmet scene in this area and introduce a selection of recommended shops by purpose.

Recommended Restaurants & Cafes for Breakfast

Sakura Cafe Nippori

Sakura Cafe
Source: Retty

Sakura Cafe is where you can enjoy a simple & reasonably priced breakfast from as early as 5 am. 
This international cafe, decorated with lively national flags, is famous for its authentic-tasting dishes such as paella and curry.

The morning set includes toast, a drink, and unlimited refills of the daily soup in a self-service style for 500 yen. While simple, the highlight is the vegetable-packed daily changing soup.

It's brimming with plenty of vegetables and is incredibly healthy. They often use pesticide-free vegetables directly delivered from their farm in Aomori. The light flavor might seem a bit lacking, but it's perfect for the morning. I always end up having several refills.

For those who want more, egg dishes and salads can be added for 100-200 yen each. It's also perfect for those who want a light breakfast. The terrace seats are recommended on nice days too.

<Store Information>
・3 minutes on foot from Sendagi Station
・Address: 1F Sakura Hotel Nippori, 3-43-15 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
・Hours: 24 hours (Breakfast 5:00-11:00, Lunch 11:30-15:00, Dinner 17:30-21:00)
・Reservations accepted
・No holidays


Source: Official website

Next, I'll introduce the stylish Australian-style cafe CIBI. Walking through the wide entrance of the renovated warehouse building, you're greeted by a high-ceilinged, open space. The sight of muffins lined up at the open kitchen counter is lovely too.

The popular CIBI Breakfast features an open-faced sandwich with beautifully sliced avocado and perfectly runny half-boiled eggs on homemade sourdough bread. The avocado was so delicious it was a revelation.  

Drinks are ordered separately. As you'd expect from the coffee culture of Australia, there is a wide selection of drinks, each carefully brewed individually. My recommendation is the distinctly Australian flat white – less frothy milk than a cafe latte for a milder taste.

Why not spend an elegant morning in this open, airy space starting from 8 am?

<Store Information>
・3 minutes on foot from Sendagi Station  
・Address: 3-37-11 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
・Hours: Weekdays 8:30-16:30 / Weekends & Holidays 8:00-17:30
・Reservations: Not accepted

Recommended Restaurants & Cafes for Lunch

Onigiri Cafe Risaku

Onigiri Cafe Risaku
Source: Official website

Be sure to try the carefully made onigiri (rice balls) at this specialty onigiri cafe, Risaku.

Japanese rice is characterized by its moderate elasticity, stickiness, and plump, chewy texture when cooked. Onigiri, made by stuffing fillings into this rice shaped into an easy-to-eat form, is soul food for the Japanese, a staple familiar from childhood.

At Risaku, they use carefully selected locally-grown rice cooked in an old-fashioned pot, and each onigiri is shaped by hand upon order. While grilled salmon and umeboshi (pickled plum) fillings are typical, a variety of unique flavors have become popular in recent years. 

Rice just goes so well with anything, it's amazing. Risaku offers over 30 different fillings at all times, so you're sure to find your favorite. My recommendation is the creamy tarako (salted cod roe).

For lunch, it's recommended to add your favorite onigiri to a set with side dishes.  
Japanese rice also tastes great at room temperature, so it's good for take-out too.

<Store Information>
・1 minute walk from Sendagi
・Address: 2-31-6 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo  
・Hours: 9:00-20:00
・Reservations accepted
・Closed Wednesdays


Source: Official website

The retro cute exterior of HAGI CAFE is an eye-catcher. It's located on the first floor of the renovated HAGISO building, a 68-year-old wooden apartment.  

In recent years, this style of renovating old Japanese houses to fit modern living while preserving their original appearance has become popular. HAGI CAFE's interior retains old pillars and beams, allowing you to feel the taste of old Japan.

The concrete walls also create a unique retro & modern atmosphere.  

The original food menu also has a retro vibe. The most popular lunch item is the mackerel
Here is the continued translation:

The original food menu also has a retro vibe. The most popular lunch item is the mackerel sandwich. A generously thick slab of mackerel is sandwiched between slices of bread, with a crispy exterior and perfect salt-lemon flavor. Other popular photogenic items include the keema curry with a whole boiled egg on top and retro-style parfaits.

<Store Information>
・5 minutes on foot from Sendagi Station
・Address: 1F HAGISO, 3-10-25 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
・Hours: Breakfast 8:00-10:30 / Afternoon 12:00-21:00  
・Reservations accepted
・Irregular holidays

Recommended Restaurants for Dinner


Source: Tabelog

For dinner, how about enjoying kushiage (deep-fried skewered dishes) in a traditional house certified as having high historical value?

Kushiage involves skewering various ingredients, coating them in batter, and deep-frying them. At Hantei, you can savor refined, authentic kushiage made with carefully selected seasonal ingredients fried in premium oil.

The impressive historical exterior leads to an equally traditional pure Japanese interior space. Being able to dine in a precious cultural property is sure to create a special memory.

You can first order a basic course, with piping hot kushiage skewers brought to your table two at a time for continuous ordering. The light batter highlights the flavor of each ingredient, providing a unique surprise with every piece.

The side dishes served between the skewers are also meticulously prepared, satisfying as a full course of carefully crafted Japanese cuisine.

<Store Information>
・2 minutes on foot from Nezu Station
・Address: 2-12-15 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
・Hours: Lunch 11:30-15:00 / Dinner 17:00-22:00
・Reservations accepted  
・Closed Mondays

Nezu Kamachiku

Source: Tabelog

Here's another restaurant in a historical building. Nezu Kamachiku is a renowned udon noodle shop housed in a renovated stone storehouse over 100 years old. The brick-built former storehouse has been preserved, exuding a profound, charming ambiance. From inside, you can admire the pure Japanese-style garden through large windows, immersing you in a Japanese atmosphere.  

While udon noodles may seem like a light meal, anyone who thinks that should come here to experience the real deal. The udon, selected multiple times for the Michelin Bib Gourmand, focuses on balancing the flavors of the ingredients to highlight their true tastes, just as the chef says.

They offer a wide selection of Japanese sakes and side dishes too, making it a popular spot for reasonably priced, authentic Japanese cuisine.

<Store Information>
・3 minutes on foot from Nezu Station 
・Address: 2-14-18 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
・Hours: Tue-Sat 11:30-14:30 / 17:30-21:30
・Reservation is accepted for dinner only
・Closed Sundays & Mondays  

Perfect for Snacking! Yanaka Ginza Street Food

Niku no Satou

Source: Tabelog

While the Yanaka Ginza shopping street is called a food lover's paradise, if there's one quintessential item, it has to be the menchi-katsu (deep-fried ground meat patty). Among the many famous shops, I'll introduce Niku no Satou, said to have ignited the menchi-katsu boom with their "Yanaka Menchi."

Using only premium domestic ingredients, this menchi-katsu contains meticulously selected A5-ranked Japanese wagyu beef from various regions. The rich umami of the meat is packed inside.

The patty's thin, non-greasy coating is a signature, making it lighter than other shops. The secret seems to be using healthy soybean oil and far-infrared fryers. I also like how the chunky onion pieces add a nice presence.

With fried foods lining the storefront accompanied by lively music and the owner's calls, the atmosphere epitomizes a shopping street's charm. Be sure to try it piping hot from the store!  

<Store Information>
・7 minutes on foot from Nippori Station
・Address: 3-13-2 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo 
・Hours: 10:00-19:30 *Fried foods sold around 12:00-17:30  
・Closed Mondays


Source: Tabelog

Lastly, here's a rare Tokyo shop specializing in ikayaki (grilled squid pancakes). Ikayaki is made by mixing squid into a batter of flour dissolved in broth, then grilled flat.

While flour-based snacks like takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (savory pancakes) are famous, ikayaki has its own distinct deliciousness.  

While the flour snack culture originated in Osaka, Yakiya's ikayaki is on par with Osaka's best. Through extensive research, the owner has achieved a preparation method resulting in chewy batter and plump, juicy squid.

The recommended item is the "ika-sen" – ikayaki sandwiched between senbei (rice crackers) for easy hand-held eating. The cross-section looks incredibly appetizing in photos.  
However, it's not ideal for take-out as the crackers can get soggy. Being able to enjoy the crispy and chewy textures simultaneously is a perk of enjoying it as street food. The no.1 favorite is the "cheese ika-sen."

<Store Information>
・5 minutes on foot from Nippori Station
・Address: 3-11-15 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
・Hours: Sat, Sun & Holidays around 11:00 - until sold out around 18:00
・Closed Mon-Fri, irregular holidays  

The old townscape of Yanaka Ginza, where you can casually stroll while enjoying remnants of old Tokyo, is now a precious sight. It's packed with gourmet spots ranging from street food to high-end, long-established restaurants.

The shops introduced here are extremely popular, so be prepared for lines. Waiting in line for delicious food is part of the quintessential Japanese experience, so I hope you'll enjoy it at a relaxed pace.

Magical Trip organizes the Yanaka Tour, covering sightseeing spots in Yanaka for over 3.5 hours. Starting from the historical Nezu Shrine, it includes making beckoning cat figurines at a renovated old Japanese house cafe and strolling the shopping street, packing in the area's charms. It's highly rated by participants, so it's recommended for those unsure about exploring independently.

Details here >>