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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. 

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!

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.

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.

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

Right next to Yoshinoya was this building…

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 The buildings above have been pulled down and been replaced by a large modern ‘mansion’ condominium…

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.

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

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!

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…

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….


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

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

#Nezu #tokyo #Yanaka #Yanesen

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All illustration images © John Shelley, not to be used without permission scribblatosis(at)gmail(dot)com