Downtown Yanaka – a small town with old-school Edo spirit.
Yanaka is part of Taito-ku, one of the central downtown districts of Tokyo. Originally a farm area famous for its ginger, Yanaka is situated in a deep gorge between Ueno Plateau and Hongo Plateau (yanaka means “in the middle of the valley”). In the Edo period, the Edo Shogunate moved many temples from Kanda, near Edo Castle, to Yanaka, whereupon the area became known as “Temple Town Yanaka.” Tickets for tomikuji, a major lottery, were sold at Kannouji Temple, attracting many tourists. Among the tenement-row houses in the area stood many sake bars and brothels, some of which survived earthquakes and World War II. During the Showa period (1925-1988), many well-known artists who appreciated the area’s old-school Edo atmosphere took up residence in the narrow back streets of Yanaka, including rakugoka (comic storytellers) Shinsho Kokintei and Danshi Tatekawa. Among the famous people buried in Yanaka Cemetery are the shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa, actor Kazuo Hasegawa (who appeared in Naruse and Mizoguchi films), and painter Taikan Yokoyama. Surrounding the graves are the studios of gravestone makers, metal workers, and tortoise-shell artists.