Asakusa is one of the oldest districts of Tokyo; its name literally translates to “low city.” Asakusa is located in the Taito-ward of the city. It is best known foe hosting the famous Buddhist Temple of Senso-ji.
The easiest way to get to the Asakusa area of Tokyo is to take the Tkyo Ginza Line to Asakusa station. Asakusa also accessible by transferring from the JR Yamanote line at Kanda station or if you are coming from Shinjuku by taking the JR Chuo line and to Kanda Station.
Temples and Shopping in Asakusa
One of the first places I would recommend stopping at on your trip to Asakusa is the Asakusa Tourist Cultural Center. Especially if you are limited or do not speak Japanese, their information can really enhance your visit to the area. You are able ot ask questions about the area, pick up some maps, use their wifi and get yourself situated. They are located right next to the Senso-ji Temple just outside Asakusa station.
The main tourist draw of the area is going to be the Senso-ji temple. This is among the most famous Buddhist Temples in Tokyo. The above image, Kaminarimon Gate, is one of two gates outside the temple that have been standing for over 1000 years dating back to 645 AD. The temple was formally associated with the Tendai -sect of Buddhism and became independent from it following World War II.
The temple itself is actually a recreation of the originally buildings as they were largely destroyed by the war. Admission to the temple, pagoda and shrine are free, but you will be asked for a donation if you decide to burn incense or buy a good luck charm. The name Senso-ji is actually the alternate reading for the kanji, Asakusa!
Behind the temple are some of the best traditional Japanese shops and food stalls! Nakamise street will be full of interesting sights, sounds and smells. This street connects the temple gate with the shops and is one of the best places in the city for souvenirs! Shops are usually open form 9:00 am until 18:00. Most vendors will ask for cash and do not accept credit cards.
Are you a huge cooking fan? Then consider visiting the 1 mile long street, Kappbashi. It is full of shops catering to those who love to cook and spend time in the kitchen! Shops dedicated to bowls, cups, and other specialty items will have anything you could ever want. I really enjoyed seeing the shops that carried the fake food displays that a lot of restaurants display in their windows.
The Rox Department store isn’t much to write home about, but is interesting if you wanted to take a look around at the latest Japanese fashions. The most important part of the store is going to be the basement; there is a 24 hour grocery store located there! If you are in the market for some snacks or other items in the middle of the night, this is the best place to go.
Nearby Asakusa are Sumida Park and the Sumida River. Both provide an excellent escape from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Sumida Park runs right along the river and can be one of the best viewing spots to eat a snack, see the Cherry Blossom trees or summer fireworks. On the river, the Tokyo Water Bus provides tours you may want to consider from Asakusa to Odaiba.
Hanayanshiki Amusement Park is the oldest amusement park in Japan and has a few small attractions families may enjoy. It’s relatively small, but has been in operation for over 150 years. Opening in 1853, it was originally intended to be a flower park! Ticket information and ride information can be found here.
Dining in Asakusa
Two of the most popular food items you will find in Asakusa are tempura and unagi. Tempura is a deep fried vegetable item or seafood item while unagi is fresh water eel. Unagi can be pricey, but is worth trying out. Don’t be worried, to me it taste like chicken and is one of the less fishy tasting items in Japan.
I don’t have any specific restaurant to recommend in Asakusa, but by the Senso-ji temple on Nikamise Street if you are looking for authentic Japanese food, I would start there. If you are at least 20 years of age, the legal drinking age in Japan, Hoppy street nearby is famous for its izakaya bars that serve both decently priced food and drinks. You may be able to find an eating tour in this area.
If you are looking for Japan’s leading beer company, the Asahi Beer Tower has a mixture of its beer and food for you to try. Even if you are not a fan of beer, the building itself will draw you in with its unique architecture. If you are uninterested in taking any tours, ask for the restaurant. You will be able to enjoy a nice lunch inside.
This is not even close to scratching the surface of Asakusa, but is intended to introduce you to the different sections or districts of Tokyo. Asakusa to me is very distinct with the lanterns of the temple and the smells of incense when you enter its vicinity. It is well worth a trip to see and will introuce you to some of Tokyo’s most famous landmarks. Until next time, happy travels!