1. Chonmage Imo Tamaru
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima
  2. やなかしっぽや
    やなかしっぽや
  3. Niku no Suzuki
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima
  4. Waguriya
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima
  5. Echigoya Honten, sake, outdoor drinking
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima

Best street food and snacks at Yanaka Ginza

This retro shopping street in Yanaka offers a good variety of Japanese snacks and desserts, from takoyaki to soft-serve

Written by
Jessica Thompson
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With its blend of old and modern Tokyo, friendly neighbourhood cats and winding, flower-lined streets, Yanaka makes for an easy and relaxed day trip. Be sure to visit Yanaka Ginza, a traditional shopping street with around 60 stores selling everything from ceramics to groceries – and, of course, plenty to eat and drink. We recommend starting at the top of Yuyake Dandan steps, which offers a view straight down Yanaka Ginza.

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  • Shopping
  • Nippori

Sweet potato and sesame skewers

Chonmage means ‘topknot’ in Japanese, the traditional hairstyle of choice for samurai and sumo. At Chonmage Imo (‘topknot potato’), skewers of chonmage-shaped sweet potato are dipped in black or white sesame seeds (¥350 each) and cooked. The seeds become nutty and toasty, popping and crunching in your mouth, contrasting perfectly with the warm, pillowy sweet potato. They contain no additives, so you can pretend these delectable treats are making up your recommended serve of vegetables for the day.

  • Shopping
  • Yanaka

'Cat-tail' doughnuts

These kawaii cat-tail-shaped doughnuts take Yanaka’s cat obsession to a delicious new level. They’re oblong in shape, and decorated with patterns that look like cat fur. Choose from around 13 different flavours, all handmade fresh each morning (¥130-160). The tiger-patterned tail is the best-seller, made with bittersweet cocoa and white chocolate chunks. Other popular flavours are maple, salted caramel, and the cream-filled varieties. Served warm, they’re just the right balance of springy and crisp.

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  • Restaurants
  • Nippori

Mince croquettes

Established in 1980, this store makes 100 percent beef mince croquettes (menchi katsu) using a blend of high-quality local and Australian beef. The succulent mixture is coated in breadcrumbs and fried until golden, then served piping hot. Just one is never enough, so try the potato and mince croquette, or the crumbed mushrooms and mini aubergines filled with mince.

  • Restaurants
  • Yanaka

Grilled onigiri

A recent edition to Yanaka Ginza, Hakkodo’s main offering is grilled onigiri (rice balls). The unique flavours on offer mean these aren’t your typical onigiri. Try miso and parmesan, salt and Japanese pickles, soy sauce and bonito flakes, or butter and soy sauce, all for ¥330 each. They’re cooked to perfection, with a chewy rice crust and fluffy interior. If you’re thirsty, try one of Hakkodo’s special fermented drinks like the tangy and refreshing vinegar soda.

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  • Restaurants
  • Yanaka

Takoyaki

Piping hot balls of savoury pancake batter filled with pieces of octopus, takoyaki is a ubiquitous street food in Japan. But where some takoyaki can be stodgy, Takoba’s flavoursome spheres have a creamy lightness to them. Go for the original option, doused in mayonnaise, Japanese barbecue sauce and bonito flakes (¥500 for 6), or try our favourite, the ponzu-flavoured takoyaki, which come with a tangy yuzu-soy sauce dressing (¥600).

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Yanaka

Chestnut soft serve

Waguriya is all about chestnut confectionery, serving everything from mont blancs to choux pastries filled with chestnut cream and wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) made with the sweet nut. For a treat on the go, you can buy a cone of fragrant chestnut soft serve for ¥463. It’s made with all-natural ingredients, including a chestnut paste that’s made using nuts from forests in Ibaraki prefecture. The soft serve is creamy with the distinctly earthy, slightly sweet taste of the shop’s signature ingredient.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Yanaka

Street-side drinking

No visit to Yanaka Ginza is complete without a stop at Echigoya Honten, a local institution that’s been slinging booze since 1904. The place is unmissable, with its barebones alfresco set-up of upturned milk crates for sitting on. There's cold beer from the tap or get a local sake, both ¥500. It’s a comfortable, casual spot to bring the snacks you’ve bought along the way, enjoy your drink and maybe even strike up a chat with a local.

Know more, eat more

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