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Step back to the past

( China Daily/Agencies ) Updated: 2014-02-06 08:20:41

 Step back to the past

The Yanaka neighborhood is located in the old downtown of Tokyo, and has a mid-20th century vibe uncommon in the city. Photos by Linda Lombardi / For China Daily

Sample the arts and crafts of Tokyo and quiet rhythms of everyday life with a stroll around the Yanaka neighborhood.

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The typical visitor to Tokyo envisions a futuristic city of skyscraper canyons and electronic gadgets, but in the eastern part of the city, an older way of life persists.

"In Yanaka, you have the history, the tradition, the temples," says Allan West, who's lived there for over 30 years, but "without any of the self-consciousness you have in Kyoto," a city known for cultural preservation.

Yanaka is one of a trio of neighborhoods called Yanesen after their first syllables (Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi). They are part of the shitamachi or old downtown district of Tokyo. Yanaka has a mid-20th century vibe uncommon in Tokyo, which was mostly destroyed twice in the 20th century by earthquake and war. Small one-product shops that have sold rice crackers or traditional handicrafts for generations co-exist with modern art galleries and young bakers of artisanal European breads, set on wandering streets and alleys with a low, human scale very unlike the high-rises of familiar Tokyo neighborhoods like Shinjuku and Shibuya.

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