Asakusa, Tokyo 浅草
Kaminari Gate, Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo
Asakusa is also one place in Tokyo where you can take a traditional rickshaw ride. Rickshaws are available in front of the temple, where you are pleasantly trundled around the neighborhood in an antique-looking, huge-wheeled vehicle by a young, muscular, bare-legged Japanese man wearing traditional shorts, happi coat and headband. Prices start at 3,000 yen each in the case of a couple (4,000 yen for just one passenger) for a 20-minute ride.
The Asakusa district retains something of the shitamachi ("downtown," i.e. lower class) atmosphere of old Edo and is popular with foreign backpackers, who stay in the many budget hostels located in the area.
Asakusa has a large number of theaters, cinemas, amusement arcades, pachinko parlors, bars and restaurants, which attract both Tokyoites and people commuting in to the capital on the Tobu Isesaki Line from Gunma, Saitama and Tochigi Prefectures.
Asakusa's biggest festival is the Sanja Matsuri, which takes place in the third weekend in May, and includes over 100 mikoshi portable shrines, which are paraded through the local streets accompanied by geisha, lion dancers and lots of yakuza - Japanese gangsters - who are reported to control 70% of the mikoshi.
Sensoji Temple and Nakamise Street, Asakusa, Tokyo
Pagoda and Main Hall of Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo
Asakusa's chief tourist draw is Sensoji Temple (popularly known as Asakusa Kannon Temple). Sensoji is the headquarters of the Sho-Kannon sect and is reputedly one of Tokyo's oldest temples, having been founded in 628.
The temple is approached from Kaminari Gate, with its huge red paper lantern, along Nakamise, one of the oldest shopping streets in Tokyo lined with souvenir stores and traditional Japanese craft stalls.
Read more about Sensoji Temple.
Asakusa Guide continues below.
Rickshaw, Asakusa, Tokyo
Further west from the Drum Museum is Kappabashi-dogu-gai, (Kappabashi Homeware Street) which among a cornucopia of Japanese kitchenware also sells plastic food replicas of the same type you see outside Japanese restaurants.
Other Asakusa attractions
Other places of interest in the area are the Hanayashiki Amusement Park, the Rock-za strip show, the Asakusa Kannon Onsen - a traditional shitamachi bath-house or sento - just north of the pagoda and the Drum Museum, which is on the fourth floor of Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten - an historic shop that sells traditional Japanese instruments and all you would ever need for a Japanese festival: mikoshi (portable shrines), happi coats, flutes and masks.
Rox Department Store at the end of Shin Nakamise has a 24 hour supermarket in the basement while the upper floors sell mainly women's and children's clothing.
Asakusa is busy all day every day, so to beat the crowds consider a night visit, as the temples are illuminated, though the shops are closed.
An historic place for a drink is Kamiya Bar, possibly Tokyo's oldest pub, a 3 story bar located just outside exit 3 of the Ginza Subway Line. There are plenty of other alternatives to eat and drink in the area in the side streets radiating off the temple grounds.
Asakusa is a popular place to stay for foreign visitors. Asakusa is close to Tokyo Station, Ueno Park, the Sumida River, the electronics stores in Akihabara and has vibrant attractions and festivals on hand. A number of cheap hostels can be found in Asakusa as well as the following recommended hotels and budget accommodations: Asakusa Hotel Fukudaya, Tokyo Backpackers, Asakusa Hotel Wasou, Richmond Hotel Asakusa, Soho Asakusa Hotel and Aizuya Inn. Find a complete list of accommodation in Asakusa and Taito-ku.
Asakusa can be reached on the Ginza and Toei Asakusa Subway Lines as well as the Tobu Isesaki Line (Tobu Skytree Line) to Asakusa Station. Asakusa can also be accessed by the Tokyo Cruise Company's Water Bus service from Odaiba or Hamarikyu.
Visitors can take the Water Bus from Hamarikyu-teien and Hinode Pier and dock at the Azuma Bridge in Asakusa across the river from Philippe Starck's Asahi Building, a little north of Ryogoku, with its famous "golden flame" on the roof.
The Asakusa Cultural and Tourist Information Center is a catchingly designed 8-story structure right across from Sensoji Temple, opened in 2012. The Asakusa Cultural and Tourist Information Center offers multi-lingual tourist information for Asakusa and surrounding areas in Japanese, English, Mandarin Chinese and Korean. The Center also has free WiFi, a nursing room, and a currency exchange service.
On the top, 8th, floor is a cafe where you can look out over Sensoji Temple below, and also enjoy a view of the Tokyo Sky Tree. The Asakusa Cultural and Tourist Information Center is a must-stop if you are in Asakusa, as it also has a large selection of brochures from various tourism-oriented companies and services.
Asakusa Cultural and Tourist Information Center
2-18-9 Kaminarimon, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., 7 days a week.
Tel: 03 3842 5566
The Tobu Sightseeing Service Center is a smaller sightseeing center, on the first (ground) floor of Tobu Asakusa Station.
Asakusa Station, Tobu Line
Tel: 03 3841 2871
Personalized volunteer guide service around Tokyo's historic Asakusa by a resident of the district.
Asakusa Station Building