One Big Neighborhood? I Don’t Think So

I’ve said this before but it warrants repeating. Tokyo is massive. You can sense it as you ride the Narita Express train in from the airport and the urban sprawl envelopes you. You can sense it when you hop on a subway train, get off 20 minutes later and realize that you’re still in the heart of things. You can sense it when you’re in a highrise (such as our apartment) and as far as the eye can see it appears that you’re smack dab in the middle of the largest city on earth. And from that vantage point, it all kind of looks the same.

But up close, that’s not the case. Although the neighborhoods don’t feel as individual as those in cities like Boston (Cambridge feels nothing like the North End, which feels nothing like the Back Bay, which feels nothing like Dorchester), there are differences. Yesterday, we decided to explore Yanaka. It’s just a 20 minute or so subway ride from our apartment, but in some ways a world away.

Gone are the hi-rise apartment buildings (though in parts you can still see them in the distance). Also gone are large buildings in general. This is an area of small buildings, single family homes, and one of the largest collection of cemeteries in Tokyo (over 7,000 tombs). It’s also home to more temples and shrines than I’ve seen in one area since we took the train to Nikko (which is hours north of the city).

It seemed that every corner we took brought us to another temple – some more impressive than others. Unforunately, my culturally unaware self felt that they all started blending together after a while…but it’s still a cool area. Even more fun was the shopping and restaurant district which felt very Japanese (versus neighborhoods like ours that have chain convenience stores on every corner). Here, it was chock full of mom and pop shops. Randy even got me to eat Indian food at Mother India.

I wonder what else this city has to offer that we’ve not found yet?

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