While areas like Shinjuku and Shibuya, famous sightseeing spots in Tokyo, are being redeveloped into new towns, the Yanaka area has strongly preserved its historic townscape while renovating.

Yanaka has the famous Yanaka Ginza shopping street, which has continued since the 1950s, with around 60 quaint private shops reminiscent of the Showa era, such as cafes and galleries.

It is also famous for having many cats that blend into the downtown scenery, cat-themed cafes and restaurants, and the Yanaka Cemetery where famous people rest peacefully, making it a recommended strolling spot. This time, I will introduce a Yanaka tour that allows you to efficiently explore this deep area.

Before Booking a Tour

The good thing about tours is that guides who are experts in the area can help you enjoy the highlights efficiently. With just a guidebook, it often takes time just to find shops, so having someone guide you is an advantage.

There are English-speaking staff, so you can easily ask questions during the stroll, and they can help communicate with shop staff. Although it's called a tour, some operators will hold it even with just one person, so it's easy for individual travelers to join. However, it's a popular area, so be prepared for larger group sizes and be sure to arrive at the meeting point on time.

Recommended Tours in the Yanaka Ginza Area

Yanaka Walking Tour The Old Quarter of Tokyo

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

The tour covers Yanaka Ginza, Yanaka Beer Hall, local food and drinks, Tennoji Temple, Yanaka Cemetery, and Nezu Shrine, taking around 3 hours. It costs 6,000 yen per adult, and is free for children under 10 (with ID required).

The meeting/drop-off point is outside the North Exit ticket gates of JR Nippori Station, next to NewDays, which is convenient for accessing from other sightseeing spots. Reservations are required in advance, which can be easily made 1-2 months prior to using their online form. The tour is offered only in English.

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

Meet at Nezu Station and visit Nezu Shrine, an old folk house cafe, Yanaka Ginza, before ending at Yanaka Station. Takes about 3.5 hours. At Nezu Shrine, you'll learn how to worship and proper manners at shrines.

At the folk house cafe, you can do a Beckoning Cat painting workshop while enjoying a drink. In Yanaka Ginza, buy perfect snacks for a food stroll and enjoy Japanese food culture. The guide takes photos during the tour and shares them with you via email afterward.

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

The 3.5-hour route covers Tennoji Temple, Yanaka Cemetery, Yuhoan, Tamarinden Temple, Nezu Shrine, and Yanaka Ginza. At Tennoji, see the well-maintained gardens and the 1690 Tennoji Great Buddha statue.

At Yuhoan, you can optionally experience an authentic tea ceremony on tatami mats (an extra 1,500 yen). Tamarinden Temple has the famous 2011 statue of the sumo wrestler Taiho. The plan can be customized to your preferences. It's 6,000 yen per hour, with extensions possible.

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

Tokyo Old Town Food Tour in Yanaka Ginza

Tokyo Old Town Food Tour in Yanaka Ginza
Source: Tablecross Inc.

Spend 3 hours strolling through just the Yanaka Ginza shopping street. Focus on food, tasting local snacks perfect for a food stroll, and a Japanese-style lunch featuring cuisine from Kyushu.

After a filling lunch, experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony at an antique shop. There's also time for shopping at an art gallery for souvenirs like stationery and pottery, balancing food, experiences, and shopping.

Details: https://www.byfood.com/experiences/tokyo-old-town-food-tour-in-yanaka-ginza-132

Recommended Spots to Visit Individually in Yanaka Ginza

Yuyake Dandan

Source: Jalan

About a 5-minute walk from the North Exit of JR Nippori Station, there is a staircase leading to the Yanaka Ginza shopping street called Yuyake Dandan. The name was decided through a public submission, as the staircase faces west and offers a beautiful sunset view over Yanaka Ginza in the evening.

After exploring Yanaka Ginza fully, viewing the orange sunset from here is very relaxing. It's a spot I always visit to end my Yanaka Ginza trips.

Yanaka Cemetery

Yanaka Cemetery

Despite being located in the town, Yanaka Cemetery is the resting place of many famous people, including the last Tokugawa shogun Yoshinobu and Eiichi Shibusawa. From the northern high ground, you can see the Tokyo Sky Tree tower.

The central path is lined with many cherry blossom trees, called the Sakura-dori. When in full bloom, the tunnel-like cherry tree-lined path is a famous hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spot in Tokyo. There are also popular cafes nearby where you can rest with a delicious drink and sweets after sightseeing.

Tennoji Temple

Source: Tendai Tokyo Area Official Website

About a 4-minute walk from the South Exit of Nippori Station is Tennoji Temple, also known as the entrance to Yanaka Cemetery. It has a 4.85m tall Buddha statue from over 300 years ago called the Joroku Buddha.

Seeing the warmly-featured giant Buddha makes you naturally want to put your hands together in prayer, leaving you with a serene feeling. There used to be a famous five-story pagoda that was the model for the book "The Five-Storied Pagoda," but it has disappeared, leaving only historical remains.

Nezu Shrine

Nezu Shrine
Source: Official Website

Nezu Shrine, with over 1,900 years of history and one of the Ten Shrines of Tokyo, is a 5-minute walk from Sendagi Station. Buildings constructed in the Edo period remain, designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan.

In particular, the Otome Inari Shrine with its line of bright red torii gates is popular for its photogenic scenery. Additionally, every April, around 3,000 azalea plants of 100 varieties bloom pink, red, and white for about a month during the "Bunkyo Tsutsuji Matsuri" (Bunkyo Azalea Festival). The festival features food stalls, a sweet sake tea house, and a plant market, bustling with visitors.

Yanaka Beer Hall

Yanaka Beer Hall
Source: Official Facebook

Part of the renovated "Ueno Sakuraatari" commercial complex made from three connected wooden buildings from 1938, Yanaka Beer Hall is a renovated establishment.

They mainly serve Yanaka Beer, containing twice the usual amount of malt and hops, alongside craft beers available only here. The 1st floor has table seating, the 2nd floor has tatami mats to remove shoes and relax, and the terrace offers an open-air atmosphere to enjoy delicious beers. It opens at noon, so you can get a daytime buzz.

Cafes & Restaurants to Visit

Cafe Nekoemon

Cafe Nekoemon
Source: Official Website

Cafe Nekoemon is a Yanaka-style cat-themed cafe renovated from a building over 90 years old. Cat designs are everywhere, from sweets and dishware to ornaments, making it perfect for cat lovers.

In addition to lunch and tea, you can make a reservation for a Beckoning Cat painting experience, a famous Japanese lucky charm. The menu has English descriptions, and takeout is available, making it accessible for foreign visitors.

Website: https://yanakado.com/c_nekoemon.html

Kayaba Coffee

Kayaba Cooffee
Source: Tabelog

Kayaba Coffee has been loved by locals for over 100 years. It temporarily closed but reopened due to popular demand from many regulars.

The aged two-story wooden exterior gives a historical feel, while the renovated interior provides a comfortable space. Their signature is the thick egg sandwich made with hearty whole wheat bread stuffed generously with egg. Enjoy the cozy atmosphere with a delicious coffee.

Website: https://www.instagram.com/kayabacoffee/

Recommended Shops Around Yanaka Ginza

Shops for Japanese Accessories & Souvenirs


Source: Yanaka Ginza Official Website

Tamaru started as a store commemorating famous Rakugo (comic storytelling) masters Kokintei Shincho, Kinaratei Bako, and Kokintei Shinsho. It mainly carries their original merchandise like tenugui (hand towels) and figurines, exclusively available here nationwide.

The cozy interior is packed with various knick-knacks, making it fun just to look around. The sake cups and small plates each featuring a master's face are cute and make great mini souvenirs.

<Store Information>
- Address: 3-11-15 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: Irregular
- Phone: 03-5814-4425
- Hours: 10:00-19:00
- Website: https://x.gd/8xRQmM

Edo Mingei Amehiko

Source: Yanaka Ginza Official Website

Edo Mingei Amehiko is a knick-knack store perfect for the cat-loving town of Yanaka, with an adorable cat-designed noren curtain. It offers a wide range of folk crafts, artworks, lucky charms, and traditional toys passed down over generations.

In addition to standard items like postcards and daruma dolls, they also stock seasonal goods like hina dolls and decorations for the Doll's Festival in spring, wind chimes in summer, and zodiac figurines and New Year's decorations in winter. With all its Japanese-styled items, it's a great place to find the perfect souvenir without getting overwhelmed.

<Store Information>
- Address: 3-11-14 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: Tuesdays
- Phone: 03-3828-1729
- Hours: 10:00-18:00
- Website: https://x.gd/7ZErU

Shops for Cat-Themed Goods

Nuno Fusen

Source: Yanaka Ginza Official Website

Nuno Fusen opened in 2010 as a handmade craft store but evolved into a cat-themed shop after a injured stray black cat wandered in.

In addition to cats, they carry cute character goods like dogs and Totoro, making shopping feel like a treasure hunt. The cat-loving staff are happy to chat about cats too. You might even get lucky and encounter the shop's "operating manager" black cat if the timing is right!

<Store Information>
- Address: 3-11-14 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: Irregular
- Phone: 03-5685-6788
- Hours: 10:30-18:00
- Website: https://x.gd/HDltf

Neco Action

Neco Action
Source: Official Website

Neco Action, opened in 2009, is a shop lined with affordable cat-themed goods from stationery and kitchenware to interior decor and fashion items - it's cat paradise that is visually soothing.

They are popular for their original hand-drawn goods by illustrator Hitomi, which can also be custom-ordered. While the merchandise has varying tastes, each item exudes a sense of refinement that makes you want to examine them closely, easily making you linger.

<Store Information>
- Address: 3-10-5 Nishi-Nippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo
- Closed: Mondays
- Phone: 03-5834-8733
- Hours: 11:00-18:00
- Website: https://necoaction.com/

The Yanaka area has sightseeing spots designated as Important Cultural Properties of Japan, restaurants where you can enjoy a nostalgic atmosphere as well as knick-knack shops perfect for souvenir hunting dotted around.

While it's also good to leisurely stroll at your own pace and explore the interesting shops, it is recommended for first-time visitors to join a guided tour. By having the highlights efficiently guided, you can fully experience Yanaka's charms in about 3 hours. There are various tours focused on food, sightseeing, or experiences, so choose one that matches your interests.