Yanaka on two wheels – Explore at your own pace with tokyobike

By Ben Davis

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Whether it’s skimming towards the city fringes on a Chuo Line Express, wandering in the shade of the trees that line the river in Nakameguro, or pacing yourself through several laps of the Imperial Palace running circuit; adding some variety to the way you move through the city can lead to some unforgettable experiences. With slender streets that retain the charm of years past, the humble neighbourhoods of Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi – known collectively as ‘Yanesen’ – are the perfect setting for some pedal powered exploring.

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Situated in an 80 year old wooden building not far from Yanaka Cemetery, tokyobike gallery not only showcases the brand’s range of urban-oriented bicycles and a selection of handpicked accessories, but also manages a colourful fleet of cycles that are available for one day hire. With the store opening half an hour early for rentals, you’ll quickly find yourself perched at the top of the hill with one of the city’s most bike-friendly neighbourhoods at your feet. With the exception of a handful of busy thoroughfares, the general lack of traffic (at times there’s more pedestrians than cars) not only allows for stress-free riding, but gives you the piece of mind to explore and delve into the area at your own pace. Therein begins the simple pleasure of cruising the famous curves of Hebi Michi, the mellow street that divides Yanaka and Sendagi, not to mention the arms-width laneways and the occasional rolling hill that quickly sends you down into the backstreets.

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And should you fancy a break from riding, a bunch of local galleries, temples and shrines – not to mention nearby Ueno Park – offer a chance to discover the area’s rich history. From viewing art installations and impromptu performances in a renovated dormitory (Hagiso), stepping foot inside the vast residence of a famous sculptor (Asakura Museum of Sculpture) or finding a quiet bench to put your feet up (Nezu Shrine), you’ll find a mix of both contemporary and traditional culture. The area also boasts the kind of dishes that bring out the food-lover within, whether it’s Nenotsu’s bukkake udon; Himitsudo’s mountainous, strawberry drizzled kakigori; or gathering a collection of takeaway treats as you go – from sembei to ice-cream sandwiches, yakitori to fresh bagels.

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Above all, the real reason I love Yanesen – where you’ll often find me on midweek cycling adventures – is the wide variety of small, independent stores that give the area its character. There’s self-taught bakers/poets, eclectic barbershops that haven’t changed in decades, and mysterious bars tucked behind walls of pot plants – places which carry an almost irresistible appeal that makes pedalling down each lane all the more rewarding.


-tokyobike gallery Yanaka
-Where: 4-2-39 Yanaka, Taito
-When: Fri-Tues, 12-6pm (Rental cycles: 11.30am-5.30pm. 1000 yen/day)
-Website: http://www.tokyobike.com/store.html




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About Columnist

Ben Davis
Editor of Thousands Tokyo

Ben is an editor, consultant and photographer who has been based in Tokyo since 2010. Following a stint with local farmers in the Japanese countryside, he now works as Editor of Thousands Tokyo, which sees him happily spend most days (and nights) exploring the world’s biggest city from the ground up.