Tokyo is not only a city of crowded streets, crazy shops and neon lights, but also has an old-style atmosphere that consists of narrow streets, wooden houses and Showa Era vibes. The shitamachi, old downtown area, looks almost practically unchanged compared to how it looked 70 years ago.
There are many shitamachi areas around Tokyo; choose one and time travel to another side of Tokyo where you can feel the natsukashii atmosphere.
This is one of the oldest area of the ancient Edo where common people used to live. Nowadays it is still a local area where you can breath a quiet and old atmosphere. Thanks to that, this area is frequently used as a set in historical movies and dramas that take place during the Edo period. In Monzennakacho, you can visit the temple where Sumo was born, attend a fire ceremony at Fukagawa Fudodo Temple, and stroll on stone paved streets lined with charming Japanese coffee shops and traditional izakayas. You can also visit a beautiful Japanese style garden and a shitamachi museum that shows how the area looked like in the past – it’s really close to present days.
Tsukishima is mainly known for Monja Street which is the best place to eat monjayaki, Tokyo’s version of okonomiyaki. In the area of Tsukuda, you can find retro vibes in a small out-of-time world surrounded by high-rise buildings. In addition to Japanese style parks and shrines, there are plenty of traditional shops where you can buy tsukudani: food preserved in a sweet sauce. End your evening with a walk along the river with Sky Tree in the background before cooking yourself a delicious monjayaki at a nearby restaurant.
The area between Nezu, Sendagi and Yanaka is one of the few area of Tokyo that was not destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and bombings of WWII. Strolling around Yanaka Ginza means entering in the daily life of locals: small shops, markets, traditional wooden houses and temples are some of the main highlights. This is also the best place to buy a cheap second-hand kimono, get lost in temples and shrines and have a quiet and peaceful walk in the Yanaka Cemetery. The cemetery is one of the biggest in Tokyo and one of the best place to see cherry blossom in spring.
Nowadays Shibamata is part of Tokyo area, but during the Edo period, was not part of it. The old atmosphere is well preserved and one of the reason is thanks to a movie series that was in production for over 26 years.The road to the Taishakuten temple is filled with food stalls and old shops that contribute in creating this old fashioned atmosphere; it is also what makes this district one of the most beautiful in Tokyo.
The Shibamata Taishakuten Temple is famous mainly for its wooden carving that was made by the same artist as Nikko’s Toshogu Temple and there is also a peaceful garden that could be admired from a covered walkway.
Toden-Arakawa Line is the last tram line left in Tokyo and it’s stop in many local places. One of them is Sugamo, also called “Harajuku of Grannies”, a nice local area especially popular among the elderly thanks to the ease of walking without slopes and stairs. There is also a Temple that protect health where you first wash a Kannon statue and then dry the statue in the painful spot of your body, in order to “wash away” the pain. This place was also crossed by Nakasendo which is why man Jizo statues that protect travellers can be seen. A few stops further at the last stop of tram line, there is Minowa, a borderline city to the dark-side of Tokyo and the broken district of Sanya. Post-war, this district became a difficult ghetto and it’s where you can see Ashita-no-Joe statue, the famous character symbol of that difficult time.