Exchanging gifts in winter generates great warmth, but it can also freeze ones finances. So, while I love the glitz of shopping in Tokyo’s Ginza district, this year I take my yen to Yanaka Ginza, a backstreet version of its eponym. The idea? To see how many local or handmade gifts I can score on a budget of ¥20,000.

I emerge from the north exit of the Yamanote Line’s Nippori Station into a bonechilling November drizzle. Trudging uphill through a virtually deserted little neighborhood, I can hear rain ticking on my umbrella as I walk the boundary line between Arakawa and Taito Wards. “Where are all the people?” I wonder.

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