As sprawling and forward-looking as Tokyo is, there remain within the concrete jungle a few scattered heritage enclaves seemingly stranded in the days of yore. One such neighbourhood is the eastern district of Yanaka, which after miraculously surviving the Allied bombings of WWII became one of the few places in the city where the Edo-era architecture and influence remains remarkably intact. This delightful, character-packed area can make a thoroughly enjoyable megalopolis diversion, so here’s how to make the most of your day out.
First, stop by Tokyo Bike to pick up a rental two-wheeler – you’ll notice local grannies similarly negotiating the winding neighbourhood lanes – then slowly meander through the vast, tranquil Yanaka Cemetery, the final resting place of the last Edo shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, and one of the prettiest places to view the stunning springtime cherry blossoms.
Visit renowned contemporary art museum SCAI The Bathhouse, where you’ll find rotating international exhibitions like the current Haroon Mirza showcase (running until February 23). Amidst the wooden houses, Yanaka is also home to more than a few artisan toy, craft, clothing and homeware workshops, including charming chiyogami (traditional woodblock-printed paper) store Isetatsu, and Sonomitsu, where fabulous handcrafted leather shoes and boots for men and women can be made to order. Finally, finish with a steaming bowl of delicious udon or soba from noodle-house Oshimaya before waving goodbye and stepping back to the future.