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Some more images of Yanesen in 1987-88

Here are some more comparison photos of lost Yanaka and Nezu, “then and now”.

Over the years I experienced a lot of things in Japan, many of them amazing, and occasionally disturbing. There have been a few things that truly shocked me, but the destruction of the old buildings of Yanesen is really heartbreaking. 

Nezu 2-chome 10 banchi in 1987

Nezu 2-chome 10 banchi today (Google Street view)

Yanesen was not like other areas, it was a survivor, with a culture and charm of it’s own. Because the district was so untouched, every old building had a value to the town beyond it’s own land price. Each one that is pulled down now is a destruction not only of the property, but of the heritage of the area. In a few years Yanesen will be just another faceless Tokyo suburb in the urban sprawl. And what are these old buildings being replaced by? Often it’s very little, and sometimes it’s nothing at all!

Ueno Sakuragi 1-11-12 in 1987. Chinese restaurant Kyoya

the same location today (Google)

Why is this? It’s all to do with land taxes – people inherit these properties and find they simply can’t afford to pay the property taxes to maintain them, so they’re torn down and replaced by car parks, or cheap prefab storage units, or the land is simply left bare.

Yanaka 1-2 in 1987, the entrance to Tengenji Temple on Kototoi-dori and Morita Electricals shop, which stood just a couple of doors along from Shin-Fuji Soba

Morita Electricals was demolished in 2003 and replaced by this structure (Google)

Nezu 2 chome 21 banchi in 1987….

…. and the same location as a car park today (Google)

Nezu 2-chome 31 banchi in 1987

today only the centre structure survives (Google)

One of the most saddening locations for me is the little crossroads between 2-33 Nezu and 2-3 and 2-4 Yanaka.  In my last post I showed a snapshot from 1987 showing a line of lost buildings at 2-33 Nezu, here’s another photo of the same buildings.

Nezu 2-chome 33 banchi in 1987

If you turned and walked right at the crossing you would soon find on the left hand side Yoshinoya Sake-ten…

Nezu 2-chome 33 banch, Yoshinoya Sake-ten (1987)

Right next to Yoshinoya was this building…

Nezu 2-chome 33 banchi (1987)

So there was a long continuation of wooden traditional buildings that wrapped around the corner and stretched all the way along the block. Now all of this is gone. The buildings above have been pulled down and been replaced by a large modern ‘mansion’ condominium…

Nezu 2-chome 33 banchi today, Sunrise Nezu Apartment Block (Google)

Not all is lost just yet however. Back at the crossing the line of buildings at 2-33 Nezu continued over to the Shi gen’nagaya tenement at 2-4 Yanaka.

Yanaka 2-chome 4 banchi, Shi gen’nagaya tenement, 1987

Today this still stands,  a solitary reminder of former times.

Yanaka 2-chome 4 banchi, Shi gen’nagaya tenement, today

Walking from the crossing in the opposite direction from Yoshinoya towards Kototoi-dori, we can still find the traditional indigo dye shop Chojiya. Thank goodness not all is lost!

Nezu 2-chome 32 banchi, Chojiya

This is a beautiful, well preserved building, only a few years ago much of the surrounding neighbourhood was the same.

In some cases the building still exists but has been given a modern make-over…

Yanaka 7-17-11, snapped in 1987

Today the building has evolved into the Italian restaurant Osteria Yanaka no Tramonto

Nezu 2-21, Yoshino Sushi (1987)

Nezu 2-21, Yoshino Sushi (1987)

Nezu 2-21, Yoshino Sushi (2013, Google)

Finally, ending on a positive note, it’s not all bad news, there are still many old buildings that survive remarkably unchanged. Rather than posting more photos here, a good web search for Yanesen, Yanaka and Nezu will show a lot of these, some are notable traditional businesses and thus hopefully will be preserved. I’ll just end my little tour of lost Yanesen with a couple of well known surviving properties I was very familiar with, right around the corner from my old apartment….

Yanaka 6-chome 1 bancho, Kayaba Coffee Shop in 1987

and on the other side of the junction, the Shitamachi Fuzoku Shiryokan Museum

Though the structures next to the coffee shop have all gone, these two buildings still stand proudly today.

Yanaka 6-chome 1 bancho today (Google)

At least some of my old memories survive! And long may they remain.

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