Tokyo: Go Back in Time at Yanaka Ginza
Get There: 3 Chome-13-1 Yanaka, Taitō. Nippori is the closest JR station, but you can also get there easily from Sendagi station.
Central Tokyo is great, but once you get sick of all the anxiety-inducing neon and crowds of people filming Shibuya Crossing, head to Yanaka Ginza for a slice of old-time quaintness that you may not have expected to find in the big smoke. Yanaka was largely missed by the Allied bombings of WWII, meaning so many of its buildings (among them, dozens of beautiful Buddhist temples) are original and traditionally styled.
Yanaka Ginza – its central shopping street or shōtengai – is riddled with clothing, trinket and snack stores: think rice crackers, crab croquettes and traditional sweets. There are also many great restaurants and bars, some of which will only fit six people, and a few bottle shops that let you sip their wares from upturned crates in the street until 6pm.
The town is relatively sleepy, with most shops opening at 11am, and only a few places open at night. Some of the roads cannot be traversed by cars, and pot-plant gardens hug most corners, giving the neighbourhood a real green feel. Cat paraphernalia is also huge, as is the sense of community, meaning the local mostly retired population are always up for a chat, even in the sentō (communal bath house).
Gemma Clarke is the editor-in-chief of Global Hobo. She spends her time contracting tinea in foreign countries, taking afternoon naps in her van and drinking red wine through a (bamboo) straw.