Yanesen is a traditional Tokyo neighborhood known for its old buildings and lush, leafy back streets. This quaint area brims with nostalgia, attracting many visitors to the local shopping street and nearby shrines.
However, the best way to discover Yanesen’s laid-back charm is to actually stay the night.
For accommodations in Yanesen, we suggest “hanare.” This small hotel proudly promotes the surrounding neighborhood as an extension of itself, and offers various services to soak up the local culture.
The hanare concept: “the whole town is your hotel”
hanare's modern exterior
The Tokyo neighborhoods of Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi make up one of the city's most historic neighborhoods. The narrow back alleys lined with old houses and trees are reminiscent of streetscapes of a bygone era.
A classic day trip to Yanesen involves sampling food at the Yanaka shopping street or offering prayers at Nezu shrine. However on this day, we headed straight for hanare, which is tucked away in a quiet back alley of Yanaka.
hanare has been operating since November 2015 inside a renovated apartment building. The hotel runs under a unique concept that views the whole town as one big hotel. Let us find out more.
Yanesen: a charming place to stay, explore and discover
hanare is basically a no-frills accommodation. Regular hotel services, such as check-in and dining are provided nearby. Even bathing is off-site.
For check-in and breakfast, guests need to go to a site called HAGISO, which is about a minute’s walk away.
For bathing, guests are encouraged to visit the local bathhouses.
The hotel also recommends dinner at nearby eateries.
a refreshing moment: breakfast at HAGISO
hanare does not provide typical hotel services, therefore, they are offered at nearby establishments. hanare considers the entire town as one big hotel, and it encourages guests to go off the tourist track to experience the real Yanesen.
Exploring Yanesen at night allows one to see the area in a different light. Wander through the quiet back alleys and allow yourself to be lured in by the warm lights spilling out of local bars and restaurants. Enjoy a meal while chatting with the shop owners and loyal customers.
For a more intimate experience, visit one of the neighborhood sentos (public bathhouses), which are frequented by many local residents.
Stay off the beaten track in Yanesen to get a glimpse of day-to-day life.
Staying at hanare
Now, let’s step inside hanare and find out what makes it special.
Check in at HAGISO
HAGISO is also a renovated apartment building
Guests check in at a multi-cultural venue called HAGISO. This renovated apartment building is about a five-minute walk from Nippori Station on the JR Line. hanare’s reception is located in one of the rooms on the second floor.
hanare's reception area occupies one of the rooms
Once you step inside the reception area, the hotel concierge will welcome you with refreshments.
reception counter with a luxury hotel-like feel
Upon check-in, guests will receive a small file containing many suggestions to make their stay more enjoyable. This includes tickets to local bathhouses, breakfast coupons, and an original walking map of Yanesen.
original map showing hanare in the center
This map is just one of the perks offered by hanare. The map shows four surrounding areas, with detailed listings of lunch spots, cafés, shops and venues for hands-on-experiences.
The front of the map shows shops recommended for day visits, while the backside shows places to go after dark. If you have any specific requests about restaurants or food, be sure to ask the concierge. The hotel will help you identify the perfect place on the map.
■ hanare arranges hands-on cultural experiences
details of activities are displayed at the reception area
hanare helps arrange activities held in and around the Yanesen
area. Immerse yourself in the local culture by learning the shaku-hachi bamboo flute or monochrome photography. These optional activities can be booked at discounted rates through the hotel. More details are available here.
Rooms are a short walk away
hanare's hexagon logo displayed outside
After checking-in at HAGISO, the concierge takes guests to their rooms located elsewhere. hanare has five guest rooms inside a renovated wooden apartment about a minute’s walk away from HAGISO. The hanare logo is elegantly displayed outside.
A board at the entrance with hotel details.
The stylish exterior often attract passersby, many of whom are unaware of the hotel inside.
An old shoe cabinet welcomes guests at the entrance. It was once used to store residents’ geta wooden sandals and other footwear.
Today, geta sandals adorn the cabinet top. Guests can purchase their own sandals at a footwear store at Yanaka Ginza shopping street.
"getabako" cabinet oozing with retro feel
The apartment has retained most of its charming interior, including the windows, wooden beams and staircase facing the entrance. It is a magical space that perfectly blends the old and new vibes.
Staircase facing entrance – a typical feature of the Showa-era apartments
There are a total of five rooms, each of which are named after the patterns engraved on the window glass.
YATSUDE -- the only triple guest room
Yatsude is a Japanese shrub planted around homes.
Window designs like these were often used in the Showa-era homes
The windowpane and floor have been adjusted to the same level to make the room look more spacious. The exposed wooden beams on the ceiling give the guest rooms a warm and earthy feel. The walls are painted in either white or grey, which match the hues of the oversized tatami mats and columns.
hanare’s rooms are cozy and relaxing with just the right amount of a Zen-like ambience.
Shared washbasins, toilets and shower rooms
Once you are inside your room, look for the wooden box placed under the small table. A special treat is hidden inside.
what could be inside the box?
Along with soap, toothbrushes, and tenugui towels, the hotel offers guests a small notebook and pencil to record their travels.
The complimentary amenities are presented in a stylish way.
Complementary bath bags hung inside the rooms
Explore Yanesen after dark
Relax for a while in your tatami room before hitting Yanesen’s night streets. There is a lot to explore in this neighborhood! Whatever your night plans, the map is sure to come in handy.
The map contains plenty of suggestions on where to eat. Be sure to mention you are a hotel guest and the establishments will make you feel more than welcome.
For the adventurous guests, try communal bathing. Four public baths are open to hanare’s guests. The map even tells the water temperature of each of the baths, and whether laundry facilities are available.
Sample regional produce for breakfast
Breakfast featuring produce from Kumamoto
After a good night’s sleep, guests will need to revisit HAGISO for breakfast.
The breakfast menu features regional specialties recommended by food coordinators who travel around in search of tasty food. On this day, all of the breakfast ingredients were sourced from Kagoshima, southwestern Japan, including the enoki mushrooms and miso soy-paste in the miso soup.
The breakfast menu changes regularly and it is a wonderful way to sample Japan’s regional foods without ever having to leave Tokyo.
Food items sold at HAGI CAFE
If you fancy any of the breakfast dishes, why not try cooking them when you return home? All of the breakfast ingredients are available to purchase at HAGISO.
HAGISO – Yanaka’s smallest mix-cultural venue
the story behind hanare....
The hanare experience is all about staying in an entire town. As mentioned earlier, the hotel encourages guests to actively explore the hotel’s surroundings and soak up Yanesen’s authentic vibe.
hanare is run by the same people behind HAGISO, which brands itself as the “the smallest mix-cultural facility.” HAGISO is an essential venue to hanare’s services, such as reception and breakfast.
HAGISO opened in 2013 in a renovated apartment that was more than half a century old. This was two years before hanare’s launched.
The renovation project is the brainchild of former resident Mitsuyoshi Miyazaki, who owns HAGI STUDIOS. In his younger days, Mr Miyazaki studied at a nearby art college and shared the apartment with fellow students.
The apartment’s original signboard is proudly displayed inside the entrance.
HAGISO -- a beloved building saved from demolition
The 2011 massive earthquake in northern Japan drove many communities to tear down their old structures. The original HAGISO apartment was no exception.
However, HAGISO’s fate took a dramatic turn after former residents staged a farewell event for their once beloved home.
The event, Haginennale, transformed the entire apartment building into an art venue, and was an enormous success. The event attracted many visitors from both inside and outside the community.
The landlord began having second thoughts about tearing down the old Hagiso apartment. This is where Mr Miyazaki got involved. The self-taught architect designer suggested renovating the apartment.
HAGISO was given a new life and was saved from demolition.
All under one roof: art gallery, beauty salon, and cafe
HAGISO: Yanaka’s "smallest multi-culture venue"
HAGISO made a new start in 2013 under the motto of “the smallest mix-culture facility.” An art gallery and cafe occupy the first floor, while the second floor hosts a beauty salon, and hanare’s reception area.
The art gallery, HAGI ART, uses the same space that was once an art studio for the apartment’s former residents. The gallery’s simplicity is the perfect backdrop for any art piece. The exhibits change regularly and showcase a wide range of contemporary artwork.
On this day, the gallery was showing a multi-dimensional art piece featuring colorful pillars.
The gallery spills into a cafe, but the two spaces have a different feel. The cafe has wooden floors, which are raised higher than the gallery area, and the walls are painted in deep, dark colors. The warm-colored lights also help create the cafe’s calming ambience.
The cafe retains many of the apartment’s original features including the wooden beams. An old shoe cabinet now serves as a bookshelf. Much of this renovated building makes good use of its old charm and transforms it anew.
The hallway on the second floor is the same as the old days.
The second floor houses hanare’s reception area and HAGI salon, which offers various beauty treatments that change daily. Guests can book appointments for chiropractic, aroma or facial treatments.
HAGI salon offers different treatments every day
Soak in the old and new of Tokyo’s historic neighborhood
Local residents played a key role in breathing new life into hanare and HAGISO. The vintage apartments have been transformed into modern venues to welcome visitors.
To fully appreciate Yanesen’s authentic charm, stay a night or two at hanare and discover the community’s day-to-day life.
Drop in at HAGISO for a dose of art, and some downtime at the cafe. Life runs on a slower pace in this neighborhood than the rest of Tokyo. Try not to rush things and savor every moment of your stay.