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Yanaka Ginza Street Food: Best Bites in Tokyo’s Cat Town

By Callum Howe
January 24, 2021
Updated: October 5, 2021
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Once you’ve ticked all the major, modern districts of Tokyo off your list, you’ll no doubt be wondering where to go next. For a more authentic and personal experience of Japan, you should really then move on to some of the little hidden gem neighborhoods which are dotted around the city. 

One of the most charming is Yanaka Ginza Shotengai: an artsy pre-war time capsule filled with street stalls, antique shops, clothes shops, and most importantly for foodies: mouthwatering Japanese street food. We asked byFood host Shizuka Anderson to go get the lowdown on the very best this lovely little street has to offer.

Yanaka Ginza Street Food: Best Bites in Tokyo’s Old-Fashioned Cat Town

Yanaka Ginza is located in the Taito ward of east Tokyo. A far cry from the likes of Shinjuku and Shibuya, here you’ll get a taste of real old-school Japanese life, at locally-owned shops passed down through the generations.

Close-up of a street cat in Yanaka Ginza

The area used to be famous back in the day for the huge number of non-human residents that lived there: the Yanaka Ginza cats. Although most of these furry residents have since vacated, there are plenty of reminders of them dotted around the area.

Shizuka Anderson poses next to cat statues in Yanaka Ginza

Shizuka-san happens across cat statues, cat paintings on shop shutters, cat souvenirs, even cat-shaped taiyaki custard cakes!

Along the way she meets a colorful cast of local vendors selling some of the most delicious Japanese street food you’re ever likely to find. Yanaka Ginza street food is as varied as it is appetizing.

Cat-shaped taiyaki in Yanaka Ginza

Think chocolate-coated dango, traditional candy, frozen oranges, grape daifuku mochi, sliced lotus root with meat sandwiched between, fried potato seasoned with seaweed flakes, and the Japanese street food classic: croquettes.

close-up of grape daifuku mochi from Yanaka Ginza

It’s a fascinating little street, packed with history and culture. Shizuka shows us around the lucky cat statues (find all seven for a wish), local craft shops, and the lovely view from the sunset steps at the end of the street. And if it all looks too good to only experience through the screen, take a look below to find out how you can get in on the action yourself!

Discover this little pocket of Tokyo; hop on a Tokyo Old Town Food Tour in Yanaka Ginza!

Shizuka Anderson standing on Yanaka Ginza's Yuuyake Dandan (Sunset Steps)

The best way to experience Yanaka Ginza for yourself is with the help of an expert local guide. On this three-hour Tokyo food tour, you’ll be taken around the best sights, shops, and Yanaka Ginza food stalls in the area. 

It’s easy to get to Nippori Station from central Tokyo, which is where the adventure begins. Starting at a nearby coffee shop, you’ll meet your English-speaking guide, who’ll take you to six different food stops. This includes a wealth of different street foods, as well as a full lunch at a local favorite restaurant.

Along the way, you’ll also get a chance to shop for the perfect souvenir (cat-shaped or otherwise), before capping it all off with a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. If you like the sound of old-Japan charm, then this is the Tokyo food tour for you.

Hungry for more? Watch our other videos and subscribe to Japan by Food on YouTube for the latest episodes!

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Callum Howe
Originally from Fife, Scotland, Callum is a literature graduate, freelance writer, and English teacher living in Tokyo. An interest in Zen drew him to Japan, so you can often find him visiting temples around Tokyo and beyond. He loves getting involved with the local music, sports, and arts scenes.
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