The one area of present day Taito Ward that largely survived the fire bombings of World War II was the old Yanaka district, which is just north of present day Ueno station. Today the old town of Yanaka is quite the hit with local tourism: people from all over Tokyo is flocking to the area to sample a bit of the old time town charm that has survived. On a visit a few months ago I took these photos of old Edo period buildings, shops and temples.
Yanaka is famous outside of Tokyo as well, for its role in the a good tongue twister:
「なかなか鳴かない谷中のかなかな」Nakanaka Nakanai Yanaka No KanaKana
How fast can you say it? The sentence translates as:
The Kanakana (a type of cicada whose singing sounds like “kanakana”) of Yanaka that doesn’t really sing a lot.
Even though you can’t really tell these days Tokyo is still a very hilly city, built on many different levels of ground. One of the higher points is around the Yanaka cemetery near Nippori Station. This is one of the first stations many visitors and tourists to Japan reach, since it is where the excellent (and relatively cheap) Keisei Skyliner from Narita airport stops. It is also a good place to get a view of the Sky Tree. I took these photos a few minutes before sunset on a cold winter day.
Tokyo is filled with great little galleries scattered all across the metropolis. One gallery that is a little bit different from the others, not only in the art it puts on, but also the building itself, is Scai the Bathhouse. Housed in a Meiji era classic styled former public bathhouse with a gorgeous exterior and a very simple remade interior. Well worth a visit if you have the time and not afraid to take a little walk from the bigger more famous art museums in Ueno.
Here’s another post with terrible photos – please forgive me for posting these, but I couldn’t resist the subject, a massive himalayan cedar growing right out of the foundations of a little convenience store in central Tokyo! As all connoisseurs or “shitamachi”, or the classical “downtown” areas of Tokyo knows, Yanaka is one of the best. Situated on a high field overlooking Ueno to south and famous mainly for the many tiny temples and one massive cemetery, Yanaka is popular with locals preserving the low, single or double storied architecture of the area. It’s surprisingly easy to miss and I often wonder how it has managed to escape the lure of the property development people as the location must be really attractive. I always get lost on the labyrinth like little streets of the area and yesterday I wandered into one of Yanaka’s famous spots, the Himalayan Cedar (ヒマラヤ杉) and the Mikado bread store (みかどパン店)! It’s hard to get a sense of just how massive this tree is, and how sudden and unexpected it is as you come upon it from either one of the three streets meeting at the base of the tree. I used a very wide angle lens to capture it in these photos, but the pictures doesn’t come close to showing how awe inspiring this tree is. I really hope this tree will be around for the joy of future generations hundreds of years to come. The old lady who runs the little convenience store seemed as ancient as the tree itself, and I hope she will last many year to come as well, although I didn’t see the cat which is almost as famous as the store itself.