The 6 Most Unmissable Attractions In Asakusa
If you are in Tokyo, or plane planning a trip to this amazingly eclectic city, be sure not to miss out on Asakusa. This district is a prime example of Japan’s fascinating fusion of unique tradition and modernism. In one minute, you pass the oldest and most significant Buddhist temple, and in the next you stand in front of arcades or run by chance into a modern art gallery. When you get the chance to visit this beautiful district, there are a couple spots to make sure not to miss (cheers to the fact that most of it is FREE):
Okay, this temple is probably number one on the must-visit list and it appears first on every Google search, but there’s a reason for this. It is one of the most popular and picturesque temples in Tokyo. Its history dates back to 645 BCE, which also makes it Tokyo’s oldest temple. This attracts not only hordes of tourists, but also many Japanese locals who pray there for good fortune.
When you enter the shrine, you pass the emblem of Asakusa, the Kaminarimon or “Thunder Gate”. Wherever your eyes wander, you will find beauty; be it the incredible architecture or the many people who are wearing the traditional clothes, the yukata.
The Nakamise Street is a 200-meter-long shopping heaven and its location right beside the temple makes it hard to miss. Here, you will find typical Japanese souvenirs, like good luck charms, folding fans and bags all in beautiful, ancestral patterns. There are many streets that divert from there, and they are not any less exciting to explore. Here comes my favourite part: the street food!
You will find delicious Japanese sweets everywhere, like dariyaki (pancakes filled with red bean paste), sweet potato cakes, dango (rice cake with sweet soy sauce or sesame topping) and an amazing variety of soft-serve ice cream! (I highly recommend having a Sake, roasted soy bean, black sesame, purple sweet potato or soy milk scoop. All of them. In one go.)
Asakusa Culture Tourist Center
The Tourist Center is easy to spot and located near the station. It definitely pays to go there as there are plenty of events taking place daily, so you could run into a free show of a Geisha dance. On the top floor, you can go to an observation deck and have an amazing view over Asakusa and see the symbolic Skytree for free – plus, you’ll save money, as you won’t have to go on top of the Skytree and pay for the same view.
Another very unconventional view you can see not only from the observation deck, but right when you exit the station, is the headquarters of the famous Japanese beer brand Asahi. It is not the building that will catch your eye, but what is on top of it – a huge golden poo. You can visit the building and its “Super Dry Hall” and learn more about the history of the beer company (including that the Golden Turd is not actually a turd, but meant to represent the “Asahi Flame”, showing the burning heart of the Asahi beer). Or you can just snatch a cool picture of the mysterious gold object and continue exploring the streets.
The Underground Shopping Street
If you go for more adventures, I would recommend taking a look at Japan’s oldest shopping street. In front of the station is an entrance that leads you down to many small (but delicious!) restaurants and bars. I mean, which better location could you think for a “ninja bar” than hidden under the train station?
National Engei Hall
This theatre gives a feeling of how Asakusa must have been in the past. This district was known for its entertainment establishments, and was full of theatres where comedians, magicians, and geishas once performed. The Engei Hall is still famous for its comic storytelling performances and, even though it is in Japanese, the atmosphere will get to you when you sit inside and see the comedians’ facial expressions and performance. It is in this place that many Japanese entertainers also made their first appearance before they went out to the world, and it is still a place worth seeing or take a look at.
Asakusa was once THE entertainment place in Tokyo, and still one of the few places you could actually spot a geisha. But even besides the many traditional and historic architecture, it has a special atmosphere when you stroll through the streets and pass many modern amusements, like baseball-halls, arcades, and indulge in samples from famous department-stores.
Let us know what you did, and what experience you had on your visit, or which hidden gems you discovered in Asakusa!
Disclaimer: All pictures were taken by me