Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Yanaka - a Bit of Old Tokyo

Armed with brochures and directions from the helpful English-speaking guides at the Tourist Information Center in Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building directly connected to the Tochomae subway station, I decided to leave the sky scraper district and head for quaint old Tokyo. Yanaka district, in north-east of Tokyo, was a developed as a temple town in the Edo period (1603-1867). And yes, the cherry blossoms are finally out in some areas. The south of Japan starts blooming first and then the wave moves northwards.Prominent temples like the Tenouji and the Kaneiji were founded here. One of the main streets is lined by temples. . . a photographer's paradise.
You see what I mean?
The Yanaka Cemetery, site of the grave of the last shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, is next to the Nippori subway station which provides the nearest access.
This traditional downtown neighbourhood of narrow streets and small traditional wooden buildings and homes exudes a forgotten cosiness and warmth and is reflected in the charming and friendly people of the area.
Miraculously the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and the Great Tokyo Air Raids of 1945 left Yanaka unscathed for the benefit of us all. Thank goodness!

It is easy to slip back to the quiet days of kimonos and bicycles. The mode of transport is still there but its jeans and T's now.

From duplex mansions . . .

. . . to shanty bamboo panelled homes . . . it's all real.

The Buddhist places of worship are called temples and usually have graveyards in them. In Shinto, the worship of ancestors and national heroes, the mon or gate at the entrance to the shrine is characterised by bright orange wooden pillars and cross bar, instantly recognisable as Japanese.

The avenues of sakura are gentle to the eye and instantly transports one to a happy safe place. The Hanami (sakura picnic) is casually spent here by the side of temples and grave stones. The Japanese are known to be both Buddhist and Shinto and embrace life with an openness that is rare.

Yakana Ginza is the local shopping street full of character and ethnic shops. The local biscuit shop.Calligraphy anyone?

No Starbucks outlets in this neck of the woods . . .
just good UCC (Ueshima Coffee Company) all-Japanese coffee here.
The steam bath is a social gathering point found in each district throughout Japan. The recognisable chimney is the give away.
As twilight emerges . . .
. . . traffic disappears home . . .
. . . and lights emerge and blend with nocturnal activities of
swish bistros, wine bars . . .

. . . and the local pub.

The best for last, my philosophy, that is, a warm dinner, ambiance, and background recordings of Miles Davis playing in Blue Note. I picked this Okinawan restaurant for those reasons. Don't you love that thick wood bar table top?
Albeit a lonely meal of Deep fried Camembert with raspberry dip, Goya (bitter gourd) with egg and bean sprouts and a green tea sour, it was still perfect for savouring the day. . .

1 comment:

boy from dungun said...

Your food looks delicious. I think it goes well with a bit of serunding!

Enjoy the rest of your stay in Tokyo!