Take a stroll down an "old world" Tokyo neighborhood, known for temples, traditional homes and....cats!?
The Yanaka Ginza Shopping District is a quaint area of Tokyo that is very representative of 1950s Japan. It is one of the few neighborhoods that survived natural disasters, fires, and change in the city, making it a fun and slightly more off-the-beaten path to visit. Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagai are the three towns that make up Yanesen, which is the nickname for the area that uses the first few letters of each area.
I was excited to visit Yanesen because I heard that it was a great area for cat lovers, and boy did it not disappoint. After passing through the entry gate to the main shopping district we were soon greeted by our first glimpses of cat figures.
There were many stores that sold some great cat merchandise, including beckoning cat statues, bags, umbrellas, t-shirts, chopsticks, textiles, etc.
One of my favorite shops was called "Jyaaku-na-hanko-ya Shinimonogurui" which roughly translated to "the struggle to die." According to our Japanese friends, this expression was supposed to be funny dark humor. They specialized in making stamps with your own seal, where you could choose your own animal, character design (romaji, katakana, or kanji) and stamper body style. Of course, we choose a cat design!
When we started to get hungry and wanted a snack, luckily there were a lot of great options with cat-themed food, including neko (cat) curry from Nen-Nekoya, traditional amezaiku lolilops, cat-tail doughnuts and cat taikyaki (waffle-like dessert with custard).
And, if you are very observant, you might just spy a few live cats napping, running, and sneaking about the neighborhood.
If you are looking for a fun and less touristy spot to get your cat-fix while visiting Tokyo, this was a fun way to spend an afternoon.
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