- Experience Yanesen’s famous street food scene
- Cut through Ueno Park, a place many local residents go to relax
- Visit Yushima Tenmangu Shrine, where the god of learning resides
- All about soba, one of Japan’s most popular soul food dishes
- Tour through Shin-Okubo, known as Tokyo’s “Koreatown”
- Feel post-war Tokyo in Shinjuku
- Check out the underbelly of downtown Kabukicho
- Local and retro feel in Shinjuku’s famous Golden Gai, where you will find all manners of Tokyo cuisine
Tokyo is well-known to be a city for foodies. Although the refined restaurant experience is excellent here, the main draw for serious foodies are the authentic local soul food that originates in Japan.
Collectively known as “YaNeSen,” Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi comprise an area in Tokyo’s shitamachi (downtown). These quaint backstreets with a retro vibe are packed with wooden homes and peppered with shrines, temples, and cafes. Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street, in particular, is home to no less than 70 shops and stalls – it is a prime sport for snacking on the go. From here, the tour continues to Ueno Park.
Established in 1873, Ueno Park is Japan’s very first public park and on the grounds of this 538,506 square meter park are Kan Ei-ji Temple, six art and history museums, as well as Japan’s oldest zoo, Ueno Zoo. Since the 17th century, Ueno Park remains a famed spot in Japan for the annual viewing of cherry blossoms. A particularly impressive sight is when the park’s 1,200 cherry blossom trees are illuminated at night.
On the other side of the park is Yushima Tenman-gu Shrine (Yushima Tenjin Shrine and Yushima Jinja Shrine). Enshrined at this 1,500 year old shrine is Sugawara no Michikazu, a 9th century scholar revered in Japan’s native Shinto religion as the god of learning, Tenman Tenjin. The shrine is frequented by prospective students hoping to pass the rigorous entrance exams for high school and university. In addition, Yushima Tenman-gu Shrine is known as one of Tokyo’s “power spots” where one can draw upon mystic energy; those seeking success in their romantic endeavours or recovery from illness are among its frequent visitors.
After visiting the shrine, you will not only have a chance to eat the Japanese soul food known as soba, but also see how it is made. Soba is a type of Japanese noodle – they are thin noodles made from buckwheat flower ranging from white to grey in colour. Soba may be served hot or cold, in a broth or paired with a dipping sauce. Along with sushi and tempura (battered and deep fried seafood or vegetables), soba is among one of the oldest dishes in Japanese cuisine.
Looking for authentic Korean food or the latest beauty items from Korea? Shin-Okubo, just within walking distance to Shinjuku, is widely regarded as Japan’s premier Koreatown. Shin-Okubo is popular among Japanese women eager to try Korean food, aesthetic salons or to get their hands on Korean skincare items and K-pop memorabilia. Contrary to its nickname, however, Shin-Okubo is more than Koreatown; it is where one can taste a variety of cuisines from the Asian continent – a walk through Shin-Okubo is an exciting experience to be had while visiting Japan. From Shin-Okubo we will head to the Shinjuku area.
The Showa Era, the period under the reign of Emperor Hirohito, took up nearly the entire 20th century. It is, however, the decades between 1950 and 1970 that encompasses Japan’s “Golden Age,” an age that can be rediscovered in Shinjuku’s Omoide Yokocho. Shinjuku’s corner of memories (a literal translation of its name) sprang up in the years after World War Two and remains a popular destination: discover what lingers on from the past. This set of narrow streets is lined with small eateries that serve traditional Japanese street food and drinks.
Kabukicho is the biggest entertainment and red light district in Asia. It is called the “Sleepless City” as it’s not uncommon to see throngs of people, day or night. It is a popular destination for domestic and international travellers as its streets are filled with restaurants, izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) and adult-themed entertainment. Its name derives from plans to build a kabuki theatre in the late 1940 that never came to fruition.
The last stop of the tour is Shinjuku’s Golden Gai. In an area of no more than 100 square meters is a small section of Shinjuku where nearly 200 bars, clubs and eateries are crammed right on top of one another in the buildings that make up Shinjuku Golden Gai. It is not uncommon to find 10 or more bars in one single building! Golden Gai was once known a “Blue Line” district, referring to an area around a neighbourhood where prostitution was common. However, today, its bars and clubs are frequented by writers, actors and members of the publishing community. Many of the bars are very small with only ten seats or less.
Participants of the Yanesen – Shin-Okubo – Shinjuku Street Food Tour will meet at the West Exit of Nippori Station and see the sights of Yanesen, a district of three neighbourhoods (Yanaka, Nezu, Sendagi) with a retro feel. The tour will then proceed onto Ueno Park and Yushima Tenmangu Shrine, followed by the opportunity to make soba noodles for lunch. After lunch, the tour will head to Tokyo’s Koreatown, Shin Okubo, and explore Shinjuku’s infamous red light district, Kabukicho, as well as the neighborhoods of Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho and Golden Gai.
Total duration of the tour: around 11 hours
Collectively known as “YaNeSen,” Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi comprise an area in Tokyo’s shitamachi (downtown).
Established in 1873, Ueno Park is Japan’s very first public park, and on the grounds of this 538,506 square meter park are Kan Ei-ji Temple, six art and history museums, as well as Japan’s oldest zoo, Ueno Zoo.
Yushima Tenman-gu Shrine
Enshrined at this 1500 year old shrine near Ueno Park is Sugawara no Michikazu, a 9th century scholar revered in Japan’s native Shinto religion as the god of learning, Tenman Tenjin.
Widely regarded as Japan’s premier Koreatown, Shin-Okubo is more than its nickname suggests. It is where one can taste a variety of cuisines from throughout the Asian continent.
Omoide Yokocho sprang up in the years after World War Two and remains a popular destination to discover what lingers on from the past. The narrow streets are lined with small eateries serving traditional Japanese street food and drinks.
Kabukicho is the biggest entertainment and red light district in Asia. Its streets are filled with restaurants, izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) and adult-themed entertainment.
In an area of no more than 100 square meters is a small section of Shinjuku where nearly 200 bars, clubs and eateries are crammed right on top of one another in the buildings that make up Shinjuku Golden Gai.