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Yanaka 谷中 Tokyo

The Street of a Thousand BlossomsI 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.

Yanaka Zenshoan Bell

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.

Yanaka Zenshoan Jizo

The above photo shows some Yanaka jizo.

Yanaka Ginza

The above picture is of the Yanaka Ginza (谷中銀座) frequently mentioned in the book.

Tennoji Yanaka Buddah Statue

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.

4 Responses to “Yanaka 谷中 Tokyo”

  1. 1

    That’s a great story – I will have to get my hands on that book. Thanks for sharing.

    Will you come back to Tokyo in the future do you think?

  2. 2

    We hope to live in Tokyo again (for a year anyway) beginning in summer of 2009.

  3. 3

    That’s great! I left for a year in 2006 and missed it so much I had to come back. Have you heard about the new tokyo tower they are going to build – I think the name is going to be Tokyo Sky Tree. It’s going to be huge by all accounts – 2000 meters high!

  4. 4

    I did hear about it. Unfortunately, it won’t be done by the time we have to leave Tokyo so we won’t see it. We have to come back to the states in 2010 when my sabbatical is over and it won’t be done until 2011 according to their website.