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Spend A Day Experiencing the Spirit of Old Downtown, Modern Art and Food

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Today let's take a part one of two-part close-up look at the Yanaka neighborhood -- one of the few neighborhoods where Tokyo's old downtown character is still preserved, offering glimpses into the daily lives of locals.

Sweet red bean paste, filled right to the tail.
The adorable "Little Taiyaki" of a venerable Japanese confectionary shop.

Yanaka is part of the popular "Yanesen" area that still holds the nostalgic charm of old downtown Tokyo today. If you follow Geijutsu-dori (otherwise known as "Art Road"), passing the front of the Tokyo University of the Arts located on the opposite side of Ueno Park from Ueno Station, you will quickly find the Yanaka neighborhood. The area is also just 15 minutes on foot from NOHGA HOTEL, making it an easy outing.



First, let's check out the Japanese confectionary shop "Torindo," located on the west side of the Tokyo University of the Arts.


Torindo was opened in 1926, the inaugural year of the Showa Period. While its headquarters are in Osaka, the Ueno shop was opened the same year the business was founded, making it a long-loved standby for the local people of Ueno.
Their most popular offering is the kotaiyaki or "Little Taiyaki," which is an adorable little treat that fits in the palm of your hand.


A rich paste made from large, sweet tanbadainagon adzuki beans fills the light, thin outer pastry. Bearing the same shape as the fortuitous red tai sea bream, taiyaki sweets are given on celebratory days such as birthdays, anniversaries and other happy occasions. Some celebrities have even chosen Torindo's kotaiyaki as their go-to souvenir when visiting the area. They might indeed be the perfect souvenir from a trip to Tokyo. Just remember they have a shelf life of only four days, so be sure to enjoy them quickly!


Sweet marinated fruits and vegetables that have existed since Torindo first opened. From long ago, they are considered very sophisticated gifts.



The shop also offers a café space to take a break in. Here, you can delight in your chosen Japanese sweets paired with a cup of green tea. However, our adventure for the day has only just begun. Save your tea break for later, and set out again with your kotaiyaki in hand.

A public gallery in a 200-year-old public bathhouse?
Enjoy art from around the world in an unexpected space.

If you walk a bit past Kototoi-dori, you'll find a fascinating building featuring Miyazukuri temple-style architecture on the left-hand corner.


The tiled roof and noren curtains hanging at the entrance invite you in to a Japanese public bathhouse full of old charm. However, you'll enter to discover an art gallery instead. "SCAI THE BATHHOUSE" is a modern art gallery that opened back in 1993, making its home in the renovated "Kashiwayu" bath house, which boasts a history that dates further back, to 1787.



Take one step in, and you will be transported to a world completely different to its exterior. Pure white walls surround a concrete floor, and natural light streams in from the high ceiling windows, creating an expansive gallery space.
In addition to leading Japanese artists such as Tatsuo Miyajima, Masato Nakamura and Mariko Mori, the gallery also actively shows the works of premier international artists, such as Julian Opie and Lee Bul. SCAI THE BATHHOUSE offers a cutting-edge view on the current state of modern art. A modern experience offered in a nostalgic building with a history of over 200 years. This is indeed a contrast you can savor nowhere else. As the gallery is only open for exhibitions, be sure to check the latest exhibition information beforehand.

A nostalgic space that preserves the feel of early Showa Period.
Renovated kominka houses are now occupied by a local craft beer brewery,
A fresh bakery and other special shops.

If you head back to the main road from SCAI THE BATHHOUSE, you'll find a sign nearby. Head down the side street next to this sign, and you will discover a small block of traditional, wooden townhouses.


This is "Ueno Sakuragi Atari," a combined facility opened in 2015 made up of three renovated kominka townhouses with a history of over 80 years.



It is a residential area dating back to the Meiji Period, and has long been home to merchants and businessmen from Ueno and Nihonbashi, artists involved in the Tokyo Art University and Music University (today, the Tokyo University of the Arts) and renowned authors, such as Yasunari Kawabata. The three houses, built by the founding family of a venerable Nihonbashi business, have today been reborn as the Ueno Sakuragi Atari.


A reproduction of the three houses in the early Showa Period on display in the Yanaka Beer Hall

Each of the three homes built in 1938 features western style rooms with plastered walls, Japanese tatami floors and their own gardens. These were highly modern designs at the time of their construction. The Ueno Sakuragi Atari combined facility was founded to preserve the enormous cultural value of these three homes for future generations and carry on the culture surrounding their former lifestyles, while uncovering and sharing the many charms of the neighborhood and serving as a place for visitors and locals to meet.



At every turn in this complex, you will find traces of days gone by. The 1964 newspaper displayed on the wall inside the Yanaka Beer Hall was apparently discovered when the floor was pulled up during renovations.

Today, the complex boasts a number of premium shops including the Yanaka Beer Hall, serving beers made with naturally fermented yeast, the VANER bakery, operated by Fuglen Coffee Roasters (a small-scale roaster from Norway that delivers European coffee culture to Japan) and Oshi Olive, a shop offering delectable salts and olives. Modern art offices and the homes of preeminent architects are also located within Ueno Sakuragi Atari, and the space is also used for a number of events.




(From left) Pain au chocolat and sourdough bread. The bread is made with wheat from Norway and is known to offer even Norwegians living in Japan a taste of home.


Oshi Olive


A product made from the powder of olive leaves, which are rich in polyphenols. While we normally think of eating the fruit of olive trees, there are also many products produced from their leaves and seeds.

Time passes more slowly in this nostalgic space, preserving the atmosphere of the early Showa Period. Visited by both local regulars and travelers from around Japan and the world, this space is always reverberating with the sounds of warm laughter.

Have a toast with Yanaka beer, a taste found nowhere else!
A Beer Hall serving a rich selection of unique craft beers.

Let's take a short break at the Beer Hall located within Ueno Sakuragi Atari. The Yanaka Beer Hall is located on the first floor of the building located closest to the entrance.


Here you can take your choice from Yanaka Beer Hall's eight different original craft beers, each boasting a unique flavor. Along with your beer, enjoy some appetizers stewed in the special earthen pots of Iga Nagatani-en, which gently draw out the full savory flavor of their ingredients.


An appetizer stewed in an earthen pot

Yanaka Beer is fermented more slowly than regular beers to bring out a deep, gentle flavor. The dark reddish-brown color of the beer is meant to evoke the image of the traditional kominka houses of Yanaka. The four beers of the Yanaka Series can only be tasted here: Yanaka Beer, Yanaka Dry, Yanaka Golden and Yanaka Bitter.



Be sure to order the Yanaka Tasting Set if you'd like to try all the beers. Comparing the unique flavors of the light and sharp Yanaka Dry with the refreshingly aromatic Golden, and deep Bitter, is fun.

Prepare for lines when you visit this famous restaurant,
but know that light, flakey Conger eel sushi awaits you.
A supreme experience of traditional made-in-Edo flavors.

After refreshing yourself at the Beer Hall, let's take a walk down through the Yanaka Temple Town, which has thrived since the Edo Period. Even today, over 70 temples can be found in the area.



If you turn towards Sanzakizaka, you will find temples lined along both sides of the hill. The street also features many delightful cafes, gift shops and Tokyobike Yanaka Rentals, making it the perfect area for a carefree stroll.
As you walk down Sanzakizaka, just before the end of the road you will find the famous Conger sushi shop, "Noike."


In business for over 50 years, Noike is so popular it is considered by some to serve the definition of Conger eel sushi itself. Its delicious flavor draws long lines, even on weekdays. Some stop by after visiting the temples of their family graves, and others visit to place large orders for temple events or gatherings. While Noike also serves other sushi, Conger eel sushi has now become the best-selling menu item. The soft-spoken Mr. Noike, the master of the shop, is now over 90 years old. He has devoted himself to developing the local community and preserving the historical townscape of Yanaka, having served as the head of the Tourist Association and Town Council.


The restaurant's famous "Nadai Conger Eel Sushi" is an eight-sushi plate composed of purely Conger eel sushi.


The Conger eel is carefully stewed in sake, mirin, sugar and soy sauce for a light and flakey texture that gently wraps around fresh sushi rice. Each piece of sushi is topped with a quick brushing of the stewing sauce. When you place the sushi in your mouth, the light, plump Conger eel will appear to melt in your mouth. The rich, yet not overpoweringly sweet flavor has a highly refined taste. This is truly "made-in-Edo" Conger eel sushi. When visiting in the evening, you can even order sushi to take away to enjoy at the NOHGA HOTEL. If you call ahead, you can even skip the line and pick up your order upon arrival.


Torindo (Approximately 20min. Walk/8min. Bicycle from NOHGA HOTEL)
Address:1-5-7 Ueno Sakuragi, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Phone Number: 03-3828-9826
Business Hours: 9:30 - 17:00
Closed: Every Monday, Jan. 1-3rd (Open on Public Holidays that land on Mondays, during Obon, Year-end and beginning)

SCAI THE BATHOHOUSE (Approximately 23min. Walk/9min. Bicycle from NOHGA HOTEL)
Address:6-1-23 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Phone Number:03-3821-1144
Business Hours: 12:00 - 18:00
Closed: Every Monday & Sunday, Public Holidays (only open during Exhibition periods)

Ueno Sakuragi Atari (Approximately 24min. Walk/9min. Bicycle from NOHGA HOTEL)
Address:2-15-6 Ueno Sakuragi, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Business Hours: 8:00 - 20:00
Closed: Every Monday (Open on Public Holidays that land on Mondays, but may be closed on the following Tuesday)

Yanaka Beer Hall (Approximately 24min. Walk/9min. Bicycle from NOHGA HOTEL)
Address:1-1F Ueno Sakuragi Atari 2-15-6 Ueno Sakuragi, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Phone Number:03-5834-2381
Business Hours: Weekdays 12:00 - 20:30 (Last Order 20:00), Weekends and Public Holidays 11:00 - 20:30 (Last Order 20:00)
Closed: Every Monday (When Public Holidays land on Mondays, following Tuesday is closed), Year-end and beginning (Dec. 28th - Jan. 4th)

Sushi Noike (Approximately 32min. Walk/12min. Bicycle from NOHGA HOTEL)
Address:3-2-3 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Phone Number:03-3821-3922
Business Hours: Monday - Saturday 11:30 - 14:00 (Last Order 13:30), 16:30 - 22:00 (Last Order 21:30), Sunday/Public Holidays 11:30 - 20:00 (Last Order 19:30)
Closed: Every Wednesday

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