Start you day from Nippori Station and walk towards the west until you reach the famous Yūyake Dandan stairs leading down into Yanaka Ginza - Yanaka’s main shopping district. Here you will find a cluster of small shops ranging from eccentric stores such as Shinimonogurui, a stamp shop which creates custom made Hanko stamps with funny looking animals, to local fish mongers, mom-and-pop stores, art and craft shops and more.
If you get hungry grab yourself an artisanal fermented beverage and grilled rice ball at HAKKODO or opt for one of the beautifully wrapped sweets at atelier de florentina nearby.
If you are visiting during the warm season, be sure to stop at Himitsudo, an insanely popular shop famous for its kakigori (shaved ice) which the shop serves all year round but is especially refreshing during Tokyo’s hot summers. Even on weekdays, expect a queue in front of Himitsudo, but if you decide to brave the wait, you will be rewarded with a deliciously soft kakigori made from naturally sourced ice from the Nikko region.
In springtime, Yanaka Cemetery turns into one of Tokyo’s most celebrated cherry blossom spots, when its main road, fittingly called “Sakura Dori,” transforms into an explosion of pale-pink blossoms.
Just to the south of Yanaka Cemetery the road turns into what’s known by locals as the “Rue des Arts” or “Street of the Arts,” where you will find several art galleries such as SCAI THE BATHHOUSE which regularly hosts well-known national and international artists such as Anish Kappor, Tadanori Yokoo and others.
If you want to continue your walk through the quiet side streets of Yanaka, head slightly up the hill to find Mikado, a small, retro food and drink shop at a unique triangular crossing which seems to be lost in a different time and age. This spot is famous for its giant Himalayan cedar tree which is often featured in Japanese TV dramas and was saved by a local community group from being cut down and is now one the area’s most famous points of interest.
Make your way further down the hill and you will come across Nennekoya, a quirky café and shop overflowing with images, figurines and knickknacks of cats - in homage to Yanaka’s most popular animal and certainly a must-stop for any feline fanatic.
Circle back towards Nippori Station and you will discover the small Kosho Same No Ha bookstore with its beautiful entryway, which sells antique books, postcards and Japanese prints for a bargain.
Make your last stop just across the street at Sampota Cafe Nombiriya, a small restaurant and café with a showa-era Japanese vibe that serves up some of the area’s most delicious meals (try the coriander gyoza and deep-friend sesame dango) and best atmospheres to end your day in Yanaka-style.