The Yanesen district of central Tokyo, whose name features bits of the names of the three neighborhoods it comprises (Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi), charms visitors with its temple-studded streets, craft shops and prewar architecture. Oddly, though, maps in either Japanese or English rarely guide visitors west of the Chiyoda subway line’s Sendagi Station, which is where most of Sengagi is to be found. Intrigued, I set off to explore.

From Exit 1 of the station, I emerge at the bottom of Dangozaka (Dumpling Slope). Strange name, I think. Asking three passersby to explain it, I get three quite different answers. One says it’s from a hilltop dango shop; another cites dumpling-shaped pebbles that once dotted the path; while the last has it mocking the people and horses that used to tumble like dumplings down the steep incline.

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