Asakusa, a district of Tokyo, is an extremely popular sightseeing destination for both Japanese and foreign tourists alike – and for good reason! A traditional atmosphere, delicious food and wonderful sight-seeing spots combine to make for a wonderful destination.
Asakusa was originally an entertainment district for the increasingly rich merchants living nearby, becoming famous for its theaters and cinemas. However, reaching its peak in the early 1900s, it later became the historic and traditional area it is today – giving visitors the opportunity to not only visit temples – such as the iconic Senso-ji – but also enjoy the 1950s and 1960s cityscape.
As Asakusa is extremely busy almost every day it can be quite disorienting for newcomers, so in this article I would like to introduce some of my recommended sightseeing spots and eateries to help give you somewhere to start.
Legend holds that this temple was founded in the 7th century AD as two fishermen found a statue to the Buddhist bodhisattva ‘Kannon’. Starting with the nearby village chief’s home, a place of worship to Kannon built up over time and culminated in the temple we see today.
Wherever the origins of the temple lie, these days it offers visitors the opportunity to take in Japanese Buddhist architecture, check their luck on the ‘mikuji’ slips which will tell one’s fortune (with English translations written on them too!) and light up a stick of incense.
As well as the temple and its gates, there is also the iconic five storied pagoda. Whilst one cannot enter inside and view the Buddhist relics donated by the Isurumuniya temple in Sri Lanka, one can admire its spectacular beauty from the outside. At night the temple complex is entirely lit up and offers some fantastic views.
Google maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/pXKUxhf54kcC3DKYA
Located a leisurely 15-20 minute walk from Asakusa temple, Tokyo Skytree is the tallest building in Tokyo and the tallest tower in the world. When it is open during the day, you can buy a ticket to go to the deck at the top and get spectacular views of Tokyo city. The nighttime offers no less enjoyment as Tokyo Skytree makes for an awe-inspiring sight when set against the Tokyo cityscape.
Google maps link: https://g.page/TOKYOSKYTREE-official?share
Google maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/XNf8by2jADSTb5Fr9.
As well as sights to see, Asakusa also boasts a wonderful array of traditional food stalls, catering to many tastes, as well as plenty of places to purchase souvenirs.
Nakamise Shopping Street
Possibly the most well known part of Asakusa, Nakamise shopping street is directly in front of the ‘Hozomon’ gate and boasts a huge variety of foods, drinks and goods. Whether you are after traditional Japanese sweets such as ‘dango’, or something more unique such as Macha beer, there is something for you!
Also, around Nakamise there are plenty of Kimono rental shops that will give you the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the traditional Japanese experience!
Google maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/g9HPZ88ZfduTMTPr7.
Nishisando shopping street
Whilst Asakusa contains many shopping streets beside Nakamise, I would like to recommend some places that are on shopping streets closer to Nakamise – such as ‘Nishisando’ and ‘Denbouindori’ – and leave you to explore the rest yourself!
Tsukishima Monjyayaki Okoge
Similar to the more well known ‘okonomiyaki’, Monjyayaki is a fried meal with a consistency similar to cheese! Also, given that it is fried on an iron griddle in the middle of a table, it is perfect to share with friends or family – perhaps over a few drinks!
Tsukishima Monjyayaki Okoge is a small chain of Monjyayaki restaurants and they also have a branch in Asakusa.
Combining a lively atmosphere with delicious food, this Monjyayaki restaurant will make for a perfect end to a day in Asakusa. Just bear in mind – the staff will offer to spray some air freshener on you afterwards as the smell of Monjyayaki – whilst pleasant – sticks to clothes!
Google maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/VyRLD4Wj9LvVz3tf8
Gelato – with a Japanese twist
Whilst Italian gelato may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Tokyo, don’t let that fool you – this Italian gelato shop, located just off Nakamise – offers a memorable ice cream: moreover, they put a Japanese spin on their gelatos by offering flavours such as Japanese sake and green tea. Perfect for a hot day!
Google maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/2er46hV3ZC6LsSAD7
Izakaya galore! ‘Hoppy-dori’
With Hoppy referring to the hops used in beer, ‘Hoppy-dori’ is a street containing a variety of Izakaya. For those who are fans of Izakaya, the cheerful atmosphere, cheap food and drinks and outdoor seating – in the summer – are a good reason to drop by.
Also, if you need a good reason to go hopping (no pun intended) from one Izakaya to another, a lot of the Izakaya on this street are known for serving ‘Nikomi’ – a kind of stew – with each Izakaya having a slightly different variation on the dish.
Google maps link: https://goo.gl/maps/KEdyiPVMjVLJRXAM7
Jumbo melon pan at Kagetsudo
‘Melon pan’, a bread so called for its shape that is said to resemble a melon, is a staple sweet treat of Japan – being sold in many places from 7/11s to bakeries. However, the melon pan at Kagetsudo – a small shop right next to Nakamise – is exceptional for its size. Not only that, but the inside of the store has a classic 1960s atmosphere that makes it a firm must to visit.
If you want to take some melon pan home, you can go to the stall they have on Nakamise – however, their main shop will give you the opportunity to enjoy the melon pan fresh, hot and with a drink!
Google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/bEMSUJ41pFxhTybv9
Asakusa has a lot to offer those who are after a more traditional Japanese experience and what I have shown you in this article is just the tip of the iceberg of what there is to enjoy in Asakusa! Be sure to visit at all times of day in order to get the full experience of all that Asakusa has to offer.