Known best for the Senso-ji Buddhist Temple, Asakusa is one of the main Japanese tourist attractions in Tokyo. Located in Taito, Tokyo, Asakusa is the centre of Tokyo’s “shitamachi” or “low city” districts. These shitamachi are areas where a certain nostalgic Japanese atmosphere prevails. With human-driven rickshaws, temples and market stalls with history
Being one of the locations bearing the essence of Japanese culture and heritage, it is of no surprise that Asakusa has been referenced and mentioned in several anime and manga, including titles like Samurai Champloo. A site as historical and culturally relevant as Asakusa is definitely one worth visiting, so let’s have a quick look!
|Cost of Admission|
|Hours of Operation|
Varied depending on the specific location visited; however, the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Centre runs from 09:00 – 20:00, Sensou-ji Temple is open from 06:00 – 17:00 (06:30 – 17:00 from October to March), Asakusa Shrine and Kaminarimon are always open.
Asakusa is a rustic stronghold of Japanese culture of old and as such, it boasts quite a number of attractions. The Senso-ji Temple is the most notable of these attractions. Originally built in the 7th century, the Senso-ji Temple is Tokyo’s most popular temple, as well as Tokyo’s oldest temple. Legend has it, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, out of Sumida River. Even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Thus, the Senso-ji Temple was built for Kannon and completed in the year 645. When approaching the temple, visitors walk through the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), the outer gate of the Senso-ji Temple. This prominent gate is the symbol of both Asakusa and the city of Tokyo.
From the outer gate, stretching out for over 200 meters, the shopping street, Nakamise, leads from the Kaminarimon to the Senso-ji Temple’s second gate: the Hozomon. Several different traditional Japanese products are sold at the stalls on this street and it has a centuries-old history. Beyond the Hozomon, stands the temple’s main hall, as well as the Asakusa Shrine, which was built in 1649. Several events are held in this area throughout the year. Running perpendicular to the Nakamise Shopping Street, is the Shin-Nakamise Shopping Street (literally “New-Nakamise”). This area is lined with various restaurants and shops, similar to its older counterpart.
Asakusa Shrine is also known as “Sanja-sama”, and it was built during the Edo Period, and unlike most other sites in Asakusa which have been reconstructed several times, Asakusa Shrine survived even the air raids of 1945. Said to be Tokyo’s most spectacular festival, Asakusa Shrine’s Sanja Matsuri, is held on an annual basis. The festival is held in order to bring good fortune to the local businesses and residents.
Generally explored on foot, Asakusa could alternatively be explored through a guided tour on a rickshaw, a 30-minute long experience for two people that costs around 9000, with shorter and longer courses available.
Given the historical significance of Asakusa and the various sites therein, Asakusa tends to be fairly busy on a day to day basis. With much to do and much to see, Asakusa is a must-see tourist destination for normies and anime fans alike. The surrounding areas, away from the prominent Senso-ji Temple, Kaminarimon and Asakusa Temple are not quite as historically exciting, but they are well worth the visit regardless. Asakusa is packed to the rafters with shopping opportunities over and above the Nakamise Shopping Street. Mainly catering to restaurant businesses, the Kappabashi Shopping Street is a nearly-one kilometre long street lined with shops selling items like tableware, appliances, kitchen utensils, uniforms and more. The Rox Department Store is a complex which consists of many clothing shops, as well as a 24-hour shopping complex. The Asakusa Underground Street is one of Japan’s oldest underground shopping streets and it connects the Shin Nakamise Shopping Street to the Tobu Asakusa Station. This area contains several shops and restaurants and it is one of the few sites in Asakusa that give a genuine aged atmosphere, as it has not been changed much since the period between 1926 and 1989.
Asakusa has several non-retail attractions which complement the historical attractions in the area. Such places include the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Centre. Opened in 2012, this eight-storey building offers tourist information, free WI-FI, a café, as well as an observation deck from which the Senso-ji Temple and Nakamise Shopping Street can be seen clearly. Sumida Park is a riverside park stretching alongside both sides of the Sumida River where, according to legend, two brothers fished a statue of the goddess Kannon, which continued to follow them no matter how many times they returned it to the river. In spring, Sumida Park becomes a popular cherry blossom viewing spot, whereas on the last Saturday of July, it is the site where the Sumida River Fireworks can be viewed.
Brimming with things to do and places to see, it is no wonder that Asakusa is a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. In the world of anime and manga, the site’s historical significance is often expressed and explored and being as old as it is, Asakusa can be seen as one of Japan’s many treasures. Despite being exposed to much destruction and misfortune of the course of several centuries, Asakusa remains a vibrant and beautiful destination where people can enjoy a more traditional side to Japan.
My experience of Asakusa was filled with excitement and retail fever when traversing the Nakamise Shopping Street, where my group of friends and I jumped from stall to stall, enjoying the plethora of different food and souvenir items for sale. Traditional Japanese fans, swords, masks, clothing and confectionaries were only some of the incredible array of things for sale. The temple tour was enlightening and beautiful and frankly, I’d do it again.