Local Secret: YaNeSen
The Tokyo of old still lives
You know you are in for something special when, on the way to Nippori station on the eternally jammed Yamanote line, you find yourself in an almost empty train watching the buildings get smaller and smaller.
Affectionately known as YaNeSen (Yanaka-Sendagi-Nezu), this part of Tokyo was untouched by fire bombings during WW2, which may help explain why it has managed to retain the tranquility and charm usually reserved for small towns in Japan's minor islands. The area is a treasure trove of old wood buildings, pint-sized restaurants and surprises.
YaNeSen is not flashy, but rather retains the atmosphere of Showa era Tokyo, away from the maddening crowd.
The curtain of quiet drops as soon as you get 100 metres away from Nippori station, and slowly start to walk down the shady lanes of the wonderful Yanaka Cemetary. There, amongst the graves of the brightest minds of the Meiji and Taisho era, Miyagi Michio (founder of one of the major koto schools) and a famous murderess, the quiet is only broken by the chirping of grasshoppers and the chanting of monks from one of the myriad of temples in the area. The slight smell of incense and flowers carries on the wind, and in the clearings you can see Tokyo Tower.
The food choices are vast, and equally tinted with the nostalgia of the area. Yakuzen Curry Jinenjou's wood interior and soundtrack of old French songs somehow perfectly compliment the 'medicinal' curry, which contains a whole series of specially selected herbs and vegetables to up your healthiness... which then gets seriously challenged by all the little bakeries and wagashi stores.
The stroll from Yanaka to Nezu is pleasantly quiet, eventually finishing off with a visit to Nezu Shrine (and one of the delicious rice sweets sold nearby).
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