You know you've gotten to the temple complex when you see the so-called Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon), which is the icon of Asakusa with its massive red lantern. Once past the gate, you're on a shopping street called Nakamise, which leads to the temple's second gate, the Hozomon. I can't imagine how crowded it must be on a sunny day. With all the rain, the several blocks leading to the shrine were crammed with people wielding a dangerous assortment of umbrellas. There is a narrow walkway running between booth after booth of mostly tourist junk, although here and there was a purveyor of slightly better quality goods -- a parasol maker, a sword shop, an emporium where you could spent hundreds of dollars on chopsticks! There are also booths with traditional Japanese snacks (rice crackers, bean-paste cakes). Once on the temple precincts, the commerce doesn't stop; it just changes character. There were seven or eight different vendors of the charms. None of the booths had English explanations (and each of the salespeople whom I asked merely shook their heads), so I just randomly pointed out things that looked interesting. I continue to believe that charms from the individual temples and shrines make much more original (and welcome) mementos for the folks back home.
You have seen the plastic food displays in restaurants all over. Well, in Asakusa you can explore the stores that sell these interesting items. Along Sappabashi Dogugai Dori there is an area that specializes in food service supply, including stores with thousands of these food items, from tiny sushi to huge platters of whole fish. You will never see anything like it anywhere else. Everything is for sale, of course, but they are not cheap; you will probably just enjoy it for the experience.
Ok, a lot of Japanese names are going to be coming out here, please bear with me.
The Asakusa area is probably one of the coolest places that most people never visit. Taking a tour will get you there the easiest. The subway is a bit more of a challenge and its location on the east side of Tokyo is always traffic packed. Still the gate is immediately outside Asakusa station and can't be missed.
Sensoji Temple is 1400 years old and one of the more interesting temples. There is not only a Buddhist temple, but a Shinto shrine there. To get there, you will go through Kaminarimon, the large gate in the picture. It is right near the street and you can't miss it. Once through the gate, you will see what looks like a flea market. This is Nakamise. Here is where you can find really cheap souvineer junk, and food to take with you. They have really good prices on Ginsing, considering the area. Walk through Nakamise until you go out the back, and you are at the temple.
A more off the beaten path kind of place is the Hanayashiki Amusement Park. It is older, kind of like the old Coney Island park in New York. There is a roller coaster that literally goes through someones back yard! We were almost hit by a kite on the ride I took.
Dont Miss: the Asakusa Samba Carnival. It is right outside Kaminarimon. It is almost like being in Rio, except that the people don't look latin.
Avoid at all costs! Yoshiwara (AKA Senzoku). I can't say this enough. Many people know this area because it is the historic red light district. And you can still purchase sex there. But it is a lower blue class area, and the only place in Tokyo I ever felt that I was really not wanted, and where my safety was in jeopardy.
The main attraction here is the Senso-ji Temple that is presently being renovated, there is no admission price and there is a series of shops that line the pedestrian street leading up to the main temple. The shops itself are one of the few places where you can buy souvenirs to take back home...The best part of Tokyo is that the shop keepers don't hound you like they do in China. The prices are fair, not cheap and not expensive. Also bargainning isn't done in Japan, so the price is the price on it. As for the temple there is a series of building around the main one. As much as it seemed that it's crowded the place is sooo big that you can walk around exploring the other building almost alone, or at least it seemed that way. Highly recommend it... It's one of the top tourist attraction in Tokyo.
If you are only able to visit Tokyo during your visit to Japan, you will want to visit Asakusa. Asakusa will give you a taste of the traditional Japan without a long trip to Kyoto or elsewhere. It is the old center of Tokyo and has traditional style Japanese temple, shrine, and pagoda.
Between the 16 and 18 hundreds, the attraction was somewhat different - Asakusa contained the notorious "Yoshiwara", the city's licensed pleasure quarter.
But today,the crowds are drawn by Sensoji Temple, the Five Storied Pagoda and the traditional Nakamise shopping arcade.
You will enter the area through the Kaminarimon gate you'll find it by following the signs from exit 1 of Asakusa Subway Station. On the right, notice the God of the Wind, and on the left, the God of Thunder.
Just opposite the gate is Asakusa Tourist Information Centre. Get your FREE map.. open 10:00am to 5:00pm daily.
Once through the gate you'll be in what they call Nakamise Shopping Arcade. The street is lined with colourful, lively stalls selling traditional knick- knacks, foods and rice crackers....rows and rows....this is the time for those little souveniers....:)
Hanzomon Gate marks the end of the street, the treasures of Sensoji are stored inside.
to be continue
Kappabashi Dori is close to Asakusa....The closest subway station on the Ginza line is Tawaramachi, but walking from Asakusa would probably be faster than taking the train.! Kappabashi dori is the next major road about 200 m further away from Asakusa..
On this street you can literally buy anything you may ever need to set up a restaurant or an advanced kitchen.The most interesting stores are those selling the plastic models of food that are often displayed outside restaurants in Japan, it is hard to work out whether the restaurants first buy the display and then decide how to present the food or the other way round...:)
These plastic food displays make cute souvenirs but be aware they are not cheap - the quality of craftsmanship is high and so is the quality of the materials..
Apart from the plastic food several shops here also sell real food and especially sauces and condiments. It is also possible to buy cooking instruments of a wide variety and obscure purpose of all sizes and qualities.
Many stores have odds and ends of sets of plates and other porcelain and ceramic wares on sale at knockdown prices .... wares displayed outside the shop on tables are a good indication of a bargain…In Japan 4 and its multiples (8 & 12) are associated with death so it is rare to see sets of 4 or 12 of anything. Giving someone a gift of 4 items is an easy way to end the friendship!.:)))
Best time to walk around the area is Tuesday through Friday, when the crowds aren't as big.
Not really recommended on Sunday when Demboin Garden and the shops on Kappabashi Dori are closed.
The Asakusa district was one of few in Tokyo not destroyed during WWII and therefore is one of the more "quaint" neighborhoods. Originally a district devoted to theater and entertainment of all types, it now is directed to the large number of tourists and visitors to the shrine. In addition, several streets are business streets with numerous stores selling kitchen and restaurant products most famously and others selling traditional Japanese costume and musical instruments. Delightful traditional restaurants are everywhere as depicted on the accompanying pictures. Typically, the dishes prepared will be demonstrated by plastic models in the windows. Tokyo is of course extremely expensive but the restaurants in the Asakusa district are surprisingly reasonable as soon as one gets a few blocks from the temple.
One of my favourite places in Japan is Asakusa. It's steeped in tradition, it has a beautiful temple to match, an open-air market to buy your traditional goodies and lots of good food. I would really recommend you to stay in beautiful traditional inn (ryokan) over here and try out the onsen. Can't think of lovelier way to experience local culture and tradition.
This is where you will find many buildings with typical Japanese architecture mixed with modern designs. I would suggest Sumida Park (隅田公園) - a nice place for Hanami (cherry blossoms viewing), if you are there during Spring.
Otherwise, visit these any time:
Sensoji (金龍山浅草寺) - a Buddhist temple dedicated to the Bodhisattva, Kannon (観音), or “Goddess of Mercy” as known to many.
Hanayashiki Themepark (花やしき) - is the oldest amusement park in Japan (since 1853). I think its rather expensive so don't bother going in unless you are a die-hard fan for themeparks. No harm taking a picture with it though.
Taishou-kan (浅草大勝館) - a traditional Japanese theatre. Nice to visit if you understand Japanese plays.
Asahi Beer Headquarters - While the HQ is closed to public, no harm checking out Asahi Annex, a food and beverage place. Be prepared to pay though.
Jakotsuyu (蛇骨湯) - a natural Onsen to soak away stress and fatigue. A basic bath begins at 430yen. You deposit your shoes in a provided locker, buy coupons of your desired package from the vending machine at the door and go in to relax. Check out this movie.
The Kaminarimon Gate is the entrance to the Senjosi Temple. Destroyed during the air raids of 1945 and later rebuilt, it is named after the gods of Thunder and Wind, depicted between the colums to the side of the main entranceway. Hanging from the ceiling of the entrance is the huge red lantern which has become the symbol of the Asakusa district. Pictured are the God of the Wind and the Red Lantern. An adjacent building houses a tourist information center with english-language brochures and maps, indispensable.
Tokyo is full of very interesting building this one is near ASAKUSA...just over the Azumabashi Bridge, ...you'll notice the Asahi Beer Hall Building. The golden piece of artwork on top was designed by a French artist and despite a number of controversial interpretations, it is in fact a flame!.
..It is constructed of metal and weighs over 300 tons. The simulated gold leaf finish makes the flame gleam by day and by night, when it is illuminated.
The building itself is covered with highly polished black granite. Its windows are small portholes which are almost invisible from a distance. The main entrance of the beer hall is marked by a curving gold panel which is the only punctuation mark along the otherwise uninterrupted surface of the shiny black facade.
Asakusa is one of the 23 districts of Tokyo and has the distinction of being the oldest in modern-day Tokyo that has been preserved well to this day. Asakusa is also known as the Thunder District because the God of Thunder lives here. Look out for this God when you are at the temple grounds.
The Sensoji Temple (700 AD) is well over a thousand years old. The temple and the adjacent Nakamise shopping area have been preserved well. It is lively all year round as it attracts many local tourists and also foreigners keen to have a taste of what ancient Tokyo must have been like.
The Sensoji is also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple (named so for the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy) and is a must-see when in Tokyo. Apart from the shrine, it is also home to a five-storied pagoda.
Our visit there coincided with the Asakusa Samba festival which takes place in August each year. The roads were closed for the parade. It was a wonderful sight - men, women and children, in costumes paraded to lively music. Imagine, a SAMBA festival in Japan!
The temple of Asakusa (pronounce 'Asaxa') are regarded as the most beautiful and important temple, especially for tourists. It is located n the north-east of the city at the Sumida river. Most striking is the massive lampion of the Kaminari-mon which marks the entrance to the temple complex. After moving through it you will find yourself in the Nakamise-alleyway, a alley full of souvenir shops. After the second gate you will see the Kannon-dô temple andthe pagoda that hosts part of Buddha's bone on its top floor.
The are and especially the Nakamise-alley is packed all year, maybe due to the immense variety of Tokyo souvenirs.
Not far from Kaminarimon the outer gate of the Sensoji Temple are rickshaw drivers on the look out for tourists who want a ride. They will call out to you the tourists for attention.
If you got plenty of spare cash go for a ride around the block with Japanese Jinrikisha pull by rickshaw drivers. We didn’t go because it was expensive for us, I think it was 500yen.
Asakusa is the only place in Japan where you can get a rickshaw ride.