Yanaka 谷中 Tokyo
I just started reading a book called The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama. I say “just started,” but I’m actually more than half done with it in just two days. It is conjuring up all sorts of memories of my time in Japan.
Even though we only spent a few nights in Yanaka last year, it became a magical place in my head. This probably has more to do with the fact that it was the first place I’d been to in Japan in 20 years than anything else. But maybe, just maybe, Yanaka is a magical place.
Tsukiyama’s book is set mostly in Yanaka (for the first half of the book anyway), and I really feel like I’m there again as I read it. When she speaks of the temple bell (or gong) being stuck 108 times on the New Year (joya no kane) I think back to visiting Zenshoan (全生庵寺院) in the Yanaka neighborhood with its gold Buddha and beautiful Zen Buddhist bell pictured below.
The title of the book refers to the path through Yanaka Cemetery (谷中霊園) between Tennoji and Jomyoin (loads of jizo here and all over the streets and temples in the Yanaka area).
I’ll post more once I finish the book in a few days.
The above photo shows some Yanaka jizo.
The above picture is of the Yanaka Ginza (谷中銀座) frequently mentioned in the book.
We got lost one time coming out of the wrong exit at Nippori Station and ended up at the large Buddah statue in Tennoji pictured above. We then walked through the Yanaka Cemetery, the “street of a thousand blossoms,” purchased and ate yakiimo (baked sweet potato) from an old man selling them out of the cart he cooked them in, and chatted with some people who were enjoying the evening hanami (the cherry blossom viewing parties; there weren’t yet really many blossoms in Tokyo though).
That experience was, by far, the best time I’ve ever had getting lost.