A short walk from the north end of Ueno Park, Yanaka is one of Tokyo’s most charming neighborhoods. It began as a temple town in the Edo period when the city moved a number of prominent temples here to save them from the rather frequent fires that broke out in more populated parts of town. The sheer abundance of temples (more than 70 in a small area) makes for an excellent walk. Most temples are found on the streets to the west of Yanaka Cemetery and south of Yanaka Ginza, a colorful shopping street where merchants cater to locals with groceries and daily goods. Wander down the winding backstreets to enjoy the surprise and sense of wonder as you turn a corner to find a quiet temple garden or a Buddhist service in session. Over time, craftsmen made the neighborhood home, and galleries and cafés have joined the traditional wooden houses and temples, giving the area a feel of being tourist-friendly without being overdone. In October, the area hosts the Yanaka Geikoten, a three-week-long art-and-craft festival when artisans open the doors to their workshops, and galleries hold special events.


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