There is one rather famous tree that often gets featured in photo collections about Yanaka. The tree has an interesting history apart from being outright impressive in how it is towering over an old shop and neighbouring temple. No wonder that the place has been featured in many movies and drama series.
The plot of land on which the tree is located, is called Sanbochidana (三方地店), surrounded at 3 sides by temples. The tree is said to be planted before the war by the grandfather of the current shopowner of the Mikado Pan shop, starting out as a potted plant. Originally, the shop used to be a place where you can buy dango, a Japanese sweet.
The Mikado Pan store
In 2012, the tree was apparently scheduled to be cut down for redevelopment. However, a local action committee prevented this, and since that time the tree has its own fund, and website where you can read all about the tree (link, Japanese only). The tree has become an ambassadors for the kind of charm for which this part of Tokyo is known for: a temple town where the old atmosphere of Tokyo persists.
Even though the shop name has “pan” in it (Japanese for “bread”), you cannot buy bread here, rather, it appears to be famous for its rusk, a kind of sweet hard dry biscuit that comes in a bag together with a small tree cookie. I feel it has become some kind of souvenir store for the tree.
View of the tree from Myokoji temple
From Myokoji temple next door, you can see how the tree is towering over everything in the neighbourhood, including the prevalent electric cables you can find destroying the landscape all over Japan.
On the tree, as on many impressive trees in Japan, you can find a small plaque indicating the type of tree and the notice that the tree has been protected. In this case, the tree has been protected since 10 November 2006 (Heisei year 18). The tree is a Himalayan cedar, or Cedrus deodara, that originates from the West Himalayas. The trunk of this tree is about 3 meters and the height is estimated to be around 20 meters. The tree is though to be planted around 90 years ago.
Small plaque indicating the type of tree and its protection status
Near the tree there are various plates and posters that explain the history and the uniqueness of the place (all in Japanese). On the poster above, it says that this location has been elected as one of the 100 historical natural features of Japan. It continues that this tree is a symbol of Yanaka and calls for your help to keep protecting this place for future generations.
Mikado Pan shop: 1-6-15 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Nezu Station – 9 minutes walk (Chiyoda line)
Sendagi Station – 10 minutes walk (Chiyoda line)
Opening hours: the Mikado Pan shop is open every day from 9am to 5pm.
When to best visit? All year round is fine
Why visit? Very refreshing to walk this quiet low-rise neighbourhood in the middle of Tokyo