Nakamise - Asakusa, Tokyo
You might expect a street leading to a temple to be pretty dull if you weren't the type to stock up on items of a spiritually uplifting nature. But these small stalls sell all manner of merchandise, ranging from colourful fans, ukiyo-e (woodblock prints), kimono and other robes, Buddhist scrolls, traditional sweets, Godzilla toys, t-shirts, and cell-phone trinkets.
There are plenty of gifts to buy and take away with you as a souvenir of your visit should you be so inclined.
What to buy: My motto in these places is to look and not to buy. There was one fine little stall selling cute moulded biscuits. All emblazoned with 'NO PHOTO' signs. Would barely have caught my eye, except for the signs. I duly disobeyed the sign and was accosted by the grumpy vendor who insisted that I should delete said photo. So if you are in Nakamise-dori, and see a 'no photo' sign, take one more for me! Perhaps a shot of the vendor chasing you???
This shop has wonderful shoes for each season at a great price! Sports shoes for guys and lots of ladies shoes!
All season, they've got great steals for men and women with their bargain bins outside the store! In Autumn/Winter, you can find fashionable knee length boots at 2000 Yen and above! I have bunion issues with my feet, but their shoes are really comfortable and last a long time... out of my 4 trips in wearing these boots, they have never failed me.
In spring, you can find lots of pretty heels and sandals also at a low price too. They are located at Asakusa 2-1-2, near the Asakusa Public hall. If you'd like, they also have other stores in Shinjuku and Ikebukuro.
Take the Asakusa or Ginza line all the way to the end, at Asakusa, exit at the Senso-ji.
What to buy: SHOES SHOES SHOES! MEN AND WOMEN, DAINTY OR RUGGED, this is da bomb. I brought my friends there and they loved it.
Again like what i've said, nakamise shopping street is either a tourist trap of a budget haven depending the one who is shopping here but for me it's actually more expensive to buy souvenirs here since they don't allow you to haggle or perhaps due to the language barrier but hek, i'm a good in haggling you see but my haggling charms seems lost here. (better to buy souvenir goods in akihabara especially the t-shirts or key chains or the reg magnets or shot as they cost less there, a plain white shirt here costs 1900 yen while in akihabara it costs 980 yen. a keychain cost 400 yen here while 250-300 in akihabara, a shot glass costs 700 yen here while 400-500 in akihabara, get the drift?.).
What to buy: The approximately 90 shops that line both sides of the lane include stalls selling ningyoyaki (a baked confection with a thin skin filled with a rich bean jam), handmade rice crackers, crafts of ***amachi old town and other souvenirs, in addition to merchandise from theatrical performances and dances well loved even by the pros plus everything from postcards to Japanese snacks, masks, dolls, toys and even happi coats (short Kimono style coat) and Yukata (casual Kimono, usually made of cotton) can be purchased here) The street sees a flurry of visitors from all over Japan and around the world.
What to pay: again 1900 yen for a white t shirt, 400-500 yen for a ref magnet, 700-800 yen for a shot glass, 350-500 yen for a keychain, 300 yen for an order of ningyoyaki (10 pieces).
When you pass from Kaminari Gate towards Sensoji Temple, you will see Nakamise Street with more than 50 shops selling local crafts and souvenirs. The street perpendicular to it is called Shin-Nakamise and you can find more shops and restaurants along this one.
What to buy: Souvenirs
What to pay: You will get good deals for souvenirs, but check a few shops before getting anything. You may save a few hundred yens depending on what you buy.
This shopping street is located in front of the Sensoji Temple, just after the Kannon Gate. You'll see many small shops selling souvenirs (key chains, pouches, etc etc), foodstuff, etc.
Personally, for buying foodstuff (to distribute as gifts to friends and family at home), I would prefer to make my purchases at a well-known shop at Ueno (prices are cheaper and there is more variety).
What to pay: For a box of assorted Japanese foodstuff (mochis, pastries etc), expect to pay about 1000-1200 Yen.
The Nakamise market (see pics) is a covered street (about 200 meters long) with stalls along each side. It is part of the Asakusa Kannon Temple (also called Sensoji Temple) complex. When you exit at Asakusa Train station, look for a gate with a huge lantern and you will know that you are at the outer temple gate known as Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate). Walk through, and just within this gate is the Nakamise market.
Walk along the covered area and browse at the many stalls. At the other end you will come across the main temple gate which leads into the temple courtyard.
I found Nakamise to be a quaint and unique shopping experience. Why not grab a souvenir for the folks back home?
*Update (2009):*To help you plan, do click on the link below-it is one of the 53 self-guided tour routes recommended by the Tokyo Metro Tourist Board. It's relatively self explanatory. (Not easy to follow at first glance, but with some googling of various maps and guides, you won't find it too difficult)
What to buy: Various local snacks (e.g. Japanese pastries, rice cakes) are available. You’ll also be able to buy Yukatas for adults and children, wooden Japanese dolls & colourful folding fans, as well as key-chains and toys.
Besides snacks, there are also crafts and quaint rice paper products-but you'd need to explore the back streets around Nakamise to find them .
I was tempted to buy a Yukata for my daughters but finally bought a little gold coloured battery operated "Good Luck" cat figurine instead. Upon reaching home, I found it was 'Made in China', but what the heck, it was cute & it only cost 700 yen (came with the battery as well).
What to pay: Snacks : 550-1050 yen (US$6-11)
Nakamise in Asakuza is a great place to shop!! you can find a lot of japanese stuff to take home, from a key-ring to a kimono. Prices are ok compared with what you can find in the street. This is a shoppers' paradise!!!
What to buy: Well many options here: candies like Kaminari Okoshi or Ningyo yaki, clothing, toys, decoration, etc. etc. etc. etc......
What to pay: I advise to take a lot of money with you, since here is one of the best places to do souvenir shopping.
Shopping at Nakamise Dori is quite a delight. While looking at the different souvenir stalls, you can pick up snacks from the food vendors and munch along.
Don't be too hasty to part with your Yen. Don't buy anything until after you come back from Sensoji and compared all the stalls.
I noticed that the stalls by Sensoji are a little lower in price to the ones by the Thunder Gate.
What to buy: Souvenirs of all kinds, inexpensive/expensive, edible/inedible, Made in China/Locally made Japanese Crafts
What to pay: How much you spend depends on what you want to buy.
This street is lined with stalls selling snacks and souvenirs.
Once you've passed through this street, you'll get to the Asakusa Kannon Temple.
Try to look out for the giant sandal hanging outside the temple.
I think Nakamise Dori is a good place to buy gifts and presents if you are limited in time, you wont find here anything exclusive, but nice good quality things, the prices are quite reasonable. I didnt do that because i've been to Asakusa on my first day and was thinking i will have 2 more to find something more interesting..and at the end i had to buy chopsticks 100$ a pair somewhere in Shinjuku:)
What to buy: umbrellas, t-shirts, kimono, yukata, umbrellas, sweets, masks, fans...
What to pay: not too expensive
Asakusa is the most important Buddahlism temple in Japan.
The shopping street is highy recommded. There collects interesting traditional souvenirs, such as fans, lanterns, post-cards, cards, posters, key-chains, bags, purses, T-Shirts, charms, rice-biscuits, snacks etc. Most of them are with good prices.
What to buy: Traditional style souvenirs
Asakusa is outdoor shops, nice for gifts to bring back to family, friends and co-workers. From t-shirts to dolls. Prices vary, but most things are less than $10 usd - however my Japanese doll in fashion glass case cost 2000 yen ($200usd) but it's big in size and as an advid international doll collector, it was worth it :-)
This street is lined up with small stalls selling all the souvenirs you can think of. It's a great place to buy souvenirs to bring back for your family and friends.
What to buy: Traditional wares, obi sashes, haircombs, fans, dolls, kimonos
What to pay: Average
In the middle of the Asakusa Kannon Temple is Nakamise shopping street.
What to buy: You'll find all kind of Japanese Goods and Food.