8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Asakusa in Tokyo!

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Asakusa in Tokyo!

Pick up any Tokyo guide book and you’ll find Asakusa features prominently as a must-see location, and with very good reason, for it’s been at the heart of Tokyo history and culture since the Edo period. If your hotel isn’t actually in the Asakusa area, the easiest route is to take either the JR Yamanote Line (from Tokyo Station) or JR Chuo Line (from Shinjuku Station) to Kanda Station, and then transfer to the Ginza Subway Line to Asakusa Station. Exiting Asakusa Station, a wonderful adventure awaits you!



 

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Asakusa in Tokyo!

 

1. Sensou-ji (Asakusa Kannon)

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Asakusa in Tokyo! Sensou-ji

Just a short stroll from the station, you’ll find Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), the outer of two large gates into the Sensou-ji temple grounds. This distinctive gate is famous for its huge lantern and statues. Although Sensou-ji is a Buddhist temple, Kaminarimon features statues of the Shinto gods, Fūjin and Raijin, as well as the Buddhist deities, Tenryū and Kinryū.

 

2. Nakamise Street

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Asakusa in Tokyo! Nakamise Street

Beyond the Thunder Gate, you’ll find the 250m Nakamise-dori, a shopping street lined with colourful shops selling everything from decorative fans and yukata (light cotton kimono), to rice crackers (sembei) and ningyoyaki (Japanese cakes filled with sweet red bean paste). Perfect for souvenir hunters, the Nakamise-dori atmosphere is best enjoyed around sunset.

 

3. Houzoumon & Sensou-ji Main Hall

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Asakusa in Tokyo! Houzoumon

When you eventually reach Houzou, the Treasure House Gate, you’ll pass into the main Sensou-ji temple grounds with its main hall, 5 story pagoda and serene Japanese garden. The temple is open from 06:00 to 17:00 every day and is free, whilst the temple grounds are always open. Sadly, the original buildings were destroyed in WW2, so these are quite recent reconstructions, but the Asakusa Shrine (1649) still stands, off to the left of the main temple.

 

4. Immerse Yourself in Culture

The Sensou-ji area offers many cultural experiences. You can learn to prepare macha (green tea), or try shodō (brush calligraphy), whilst many visitors combine wearing kimono with a jinrikisha (Japanese rickshaw) ride of the Sensou-ji area. There are ritual observances too, such as omikuji (slips of paper that tell your fortune for a “donation” of ¥100). If it’s favorable, keep it; if not, tie it on the nearby pole or tree so it doesn’t follow you back home! At the temple entrance, you can purify your spirit with incense smoke and water at the dragon-headed fountain, or pray for good fortune at the temple steps, dropping a ¥5 coin in the collection box.

 

5. Food

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Asakusa in Tokyo! Chanko nabe

The Sensou-ji area is full of restaurants, many specializing in noodles such as ramen, soba or udon. However, you might want to try chanko nabe, a protein rich hot pot of fish, chicken and seasonal vegetables much favored by sumo wrestlers. One of the most famous chanko nabe restaurants is Yoshiba, which itself was once a sumo stable.

 

6. Special Events

Asakusa Samba Carnival - 043

Special events are held throughout the year in the Sensou-ji area, the biggest being the annual Sanja Matsuri festival in May. There’s also a wild and colorful Samba Carnival in August, celebrating the close ties between Japan and Brazil, and the Hagoita-ichi (Hagoita Market) in mid-December, where one can buy decorated wooden paddles for the traditional game of hanetsuki.

 

7. Sumida River

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Asakusa in Tokyo! Sumidagawa hanabitaikai

Being so close to the Sumida river means you can take a variety of river cruises, whilst Sumida park is known as one of the best places in Tokyo for viewing the early April cherry blossoms. Many summer festivals in Japan feature fireworks, and one of the best in Tokyo is Sumidagawa hanabi (Sumida river fireworks display). Held the last Saturday of July, it’s the world’s oldest fireworks festival, attracting over a million visitors!

 

8. Getting High

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Asakusa in Tokyo! Skytree

On the other side of the river, you can’t miss Tokyo Skytree, currently the world’s highest tower. The view from its Observation Deck offers a breathtaking 360° panoramic view of Asakusa, Tokyo and beyond. But if that’s too stomach-churning, or expensive, the view from the top observation floor of the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Centre might suit you better. The distinctive 8 store building, designed by renowned architect, Kengo Kuma, can be found between Asakusa Station and the Kaminarimon gate, offering lovely views of the temple and surrounding area. Admission is free of charge.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, Asakusa is well worth taking one’s time to explore, and I’ve only barely scratched the surface of all that it has to offer the visitor. More importantly, it’s an area that is well-geared towards the needs of tourists, with souvenirs and attractions to suit every pocket, so don’t forget to put Asakusa high on your list of places to visit in Tokyo!

 

8 Useful Tips to Enjoy Asakusa in Tokyo!

1. Sensou-ji (Asakusa Kannon)
2. Nakamise Street
3. Houzoumon & Sensou-ji Main Hall
4. Immerse Yourself in Culture
5. Food
6. Special Events
7. Sumida River
8. Getting High