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Asakusa, Tokyo's historic district, has everything, from temples and shrines to Japanese sweets and new landmarks such as Tokyo Skytree. This complete guide to Asakusa introduces Sensoji Temple and other major attractions, as well as local food and lesser-known but charming facilities.
Asakusa, a major sightseeing destination in Tokyo, has been a prosperous center of commerce and traditional arts since the Edo era (1603-1868). The district preserves its traditional atmosphere in the small shops and restaurants, many of which boast more than one hundred years of history. They give the townscape a charming retro ambiance that attracts hundreds of visitors every day.
The 634-meter Tokyo Skytree with its observation deck and shopping malls are nearby, making Asakusa into an area where cutting edge technology and traditional Japan stand side by side.
Read on to learn about great places to visit in Asakusa, dining facilities, hotels, access, and other travel tips.
1. Temples and Shrines in Asakusa
2. The Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center
3. Museums and Recreational Facilities
4. Recommended Souvenir Shops in Asakusa
5. Asakusa Restaurants, Cafes, and Sweets Shops
5. Hotels in Asakusa
7. Seasonal Events in Asakusa
8. How to Get to Asakusa
9. Getting Around in Asakusa
Photo by Pixta
Perhaps Tokyo's most celebrated sightseeing spot, Sensoji Temple is a Buddhist temple with a history spanning well over 1300 years. The roughly 700 kg red paper lantern of Kaminarimon is often said to be the billboard advertising this historical site.
If you pass through Kaminarimon gate, you will find yourself walking along Japan's oldest shopping street - Nakamise-dori, which has many souvenir shops and Japanese confectionery stores. This showy street leads all the way from the gate to the main building of the temple.
Incidentally, it is well-known among the locals that the fortune paper slips from Sensoji often come up as 'kyo' (凶), which is bad luck. Other than being able to enjoy shopping and testing your luck at Sensoji, you can also take your time and thoroughly stroll about in the area all day long.
A few minutes' walk from Sensoji will bring you to the calm grounds of Asakusa Shrine. This very formal shrine was established in the year 628. Every May, this shrine holds the Sanja Matsuri, a traditional festival in which about 100 portable shrines gather in the grounds of the shrine, which is an incredible sight to see. If you would like to know more about this shrine, please take a look at this article: Asakusa Shrine, Right Next to Sensoji Temple.
Photo by Pixta
Ootori Shrine holds the Tori no Ichi festival every November. In order to pray to the deities of this shrine for better fortunes in the coming year and for thriving business, throngs of people gather here to purchase talismans and lucky charms.
Said to grant prayers regarding fulfillment in love, family harmony, business prosperity and others to its worshipers, this little-known temple is one of thanksgiving. And, with the daikon radish as its distinctive but unusual symbol, you will be able to find daikon radish designs throughout the grounds.
The Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center is located right in front of Kaminarimon Gate, the entrance to Sensoji Temple. At this facility, you can get information on places to visit and events in Asakusa, as well as use services such as currency exchange.
The observation deck on the eighth floor can be accessed for free and offers a splendid panoramic view of Asakusa! We highly recommend it.
The oldest amusement park in Japan, Hanayashiki is a theme park where you can enjoy the good old days in Japan. One of the attractions here also enables you to take a look out over the Asakusa townscape, making it a great place to take sightseeing photos of the area too.
Tokyo Skytree is the tallest radio tower in Japan and was finished in 2012. Standing 634 meters (2,080 feet) tall, SkyTree not only has a great viewing platform, but an aquarium, planetarium, a shopping mall and other facilities within its facilities, making it an incredibly popular place to visit.
Although not strictly in Asakusa, you can take many wonderful photos of Tokyo Skytree from several different locations within Asakusa itself.
Known as a treasury of Japanese traditional handicrafts, the Edo Taito Traditional Crafts Center is a facility where the industrial arts and culture of the common people of Edo's downtown have been protected and organized into exhibitions.
Furniture, cookware, metal work, and other items brought to life by the hands of skilled workers of the time are gathered here, demonstrating the living knowledge of the time.
In their souvenir corner, some of Asakusa's proud traditional crafts can be purchased for a reasonable price as well. If you have the opportunity, don't forget to visit this amazing museum.
A little-known spot in Asakusa, Sumida Park is a long green park that runs alongside the Sumida River. Throughout the park there are unusually shaped white monuments with countless holes in them. If you go inside these monuments and look out through these holes, you will find yourself looking at a perfect view of SkyTree - they are designed with that view in mind.
If you are sightseeing in the area and would like to take a short rest or would like to see a different view of SkyTree than usual, then we recommend visiting Sumida Park.
If you're looking for souvenirs or find yourself getting a bit hungry while sightseeing in Asakusa, head to Nakamise-dori, the long, thin road that spreads out from Sensoji towards the station. Here you will find many well-established selling local Japanese sweets and Asakusa souvenirs.
With cherry blossoms in spring and wind chimes in summer, the ornaments decorating this shopping street change seasonally, making it a place that you can visit any number of times without getting tired of it. A Guide to Asakusa's Popular Souvenir Street - Nakamise dori has more information on this street.
A 5-minute walk from Tawaramachi Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza line, Kappabashi Dogu-gai is an 800 m long shopping street located between Asakusa and Ueno. 'Dogu-gai' or Tool Street, is so named because this is where you will find shop after shop selling kitchen tools and implements.
Japanese chefs and cooks from all over come to Kappabashi to purchase their tools, so if you would like to get some of your own professionally approved of kitchen items, head this way.
Renovated in 2013, the Nishi Sando shopping street has been a familiar shopping area for the locals for many years in Asakusa. One of the charms of the Nishi Sando shopping street, located to the west of Sensoji Temple, is its warm wooden road. Made with the theme of a Japanese festival in mind, you are sure to enjoy just walking down this colorful shopping street.
As there are many Japanese style items and traditional handicrafts to choose from in Asakusa, this is the best place to check out if you are looking for souvenirs. If you've enjoyed shopping in the old Japanese sweets shops and food stores, this building also offers ideal viewing spots for Tokyo SkyTree, making it a very useful souvenir and rest place indeed.
Asakusa ROX is a large shopping building that not only has clothing and daily goods stores, but baths, accommodations, a fitness gym with a pool and other facilities in it. At Matsuriyu, a hot spring located on the 6th and 7th floors, they also offer a service wherein you can directly go from your bathing experience right to your accommodations. This is an excellent option for those who are tired from their shopping and sightseeing and need a place to refresh themselves.
If you are looking to buy a lot of souvenirs for a reasonable price, then a trip to the discount store Don Quijote is just what you need. Selling everything from Japanese goods, cosmetics, appliances, food and more, the abundant variety of items available here are all sold at lower prices than in standard shops.
With many standing soba shops and retro izakaya pubs, the Asakusa Underground Shopping Street is a favorite rest stop for the many business people who work in the area. This is one of the places in Asakusa that those tired of the standard sightseeing spots and brave enough to venture off the beaten path are sure to enjoy; here you will find the authentic atmosphere of Asakusa from several decades back.
Fujiyama is a great souvenir shop selling lots of original, Japanese style miscellaneous goods. Here you will find a wide selection of fun souvenir items, from Mount Fuji shaped accessories to Japanese patterned T-shirts and more. More of their products can be viewed at: Shopping at "Asakusa FUJIYAMA" for an Old-Town Mood.
Toshogama in Kappabashi is where to go if you want to find modern designed Japanese cookware. Based on the concept of 'Japanese modern', you are certain to find a few items of tableware that strike your fancy. Shopping in Asakusa: Beautiful Tableware in Toushougama has more on this shop.
Hinomoto Hanpu Asakusa is a shop selling bags that you will find it very hard to stop using once you start. Made from canvas, each bag sold at Hinomoto Hanpu are both durable and well-crafted; they are excellent items to take home as souvenirs. See more of these bags and their other products here: Hinomoto Hanpu in Asakusa - Canvas Bags That Improve Through Time.
For those cooking enthusiasts and chefs looking for the perfect knife, Kamata the knife specialty store on Kappabashi Dogu-gai is the number one place you should go. With customers coming from all across Japan and even the world, here you are sure to find the best kitchen knife for you. To learn more about the knives themselves and the history of the shop, look here: The Perfect Blade! Finding Knives at Kamata in Kappabashi.
A popular shop that has been the topic of plenty of conversations in recent years in Asakusa is Konnyaku Shabon, an organic cosmetics store. Made using konnyaku, these squishy, springy and fresh cosmetics are excellent for those with sensitive skin, making this a particularly popular shop.
Shibata Yoshinobu Shoten handles Odate Magewappa, a traditional handicraft of Akita made from cedarwood. "Passing down from parent to child" is their motto since the store produces long-lasting items that can be used for generations.
KAMA-ASA Shoten, located on Kappabashi Dougu Street with its stylish noren (shop curtain), is popular with chefs and tourists. The store sells over 1,000 cooking utensils that may look simple but are sturdy.
Those looking for tools to make bread or confections should visit Majimaya. The shop has 1,000 types of cookie molds and original molds exclusively made by the store. The items are all affordable, ranging from 120 to 1,500 yen each.
Iidaya specializes in cooking utensils from around the world. The customers range from professional chefs to ordinary cooks looking for the perfect tool in the kitchen.
Yoroshi Cosmetics has been in business since the Taisho Period (1912-1926), providing cosmetics crafted with Japanese ingredients that are gentle on the skin. The interior is designed with the romantic air of the Taisho Period in mind.
Asakusa is not just a history-rich place with great shopping - there are also plenty of fine dining establishments, cafes, and shops with delicious treats and edible souvenirs to enjoy as well. There is something for everyone here.
Asakusa is also a celebrated gourmet town, with shops selling tempura, sushi, sukiyaki, monjayaki and other great Japanese dishes. The always queued Namikiyabu Soba restaurant is a well-established soba noodle shop with a 100 year old history in this area.
Their menu is overflowing with all of the most popular buckwheat noodle dishes, like zarusoba, where you can enjoy the original taste of the noodles, the healthy yamakake soba, and the winter favorite, kamonanban soba.
Komagata Dojo was established in 1801 and is a shop serving dishes featuring an expensive ingredient - the loach. This luxurious fish is boiled in a sweet miso soup in the dish Dojo nabe, which is a refined dish that all should try at least once.
Photo by PR Times
Also running a shop on the Nakamise-dori, Funawa is a 100 year old Japanese sweets store of longstanding in Asakusa. Their signature sweet is the imo yokan, a sweet mashed yam cake that is said to taste as good as a sweet yam on its own; their foods have a simplicity to their flavoring that many find charming.
As these confections are made with natural ingredients and not overly processed, those who are not big fans of sweet foods will probably really enjoy their products.
When it comes to sweets in Asakusa, imo yokan aren't the only kinds available. Kameju's dorayaki, (a pancake-like sandwich stuffed with filling), just melt in your mouth, the soft pastry of the pancake being their most famous point. Easy to eat as you walk, these dorayaki also make perfect presents.
Anpan is a sweet bun filled with red bean paste that was invented in Japan. A shop of longstanding, Andesu Matoba Bakery carries over 20 varieties of this bun, making it one of the most famous anpan shops in the region.
With kusadango anpan (herb-based anpan) and pumpkin anpans among the flavors, this is the perfect place to find unusual types of this popular snack.
Umezono is a Japanese-style sweet cafe with a history spanning 160 years. Their most famous yet simple item is their awazenzai, a steamed red bean mochi bun. Located right by the Nakamise-dori, Umezono is a great place to stop for a break in the afternoon.
A shop with two faces, Kagurachaka Petit Asakusa is a cafe where you can enjoy freshly ground green tea and original Japanese parfaits by day and a bar with green tea-flavored drinks by night. This unique shop is especially good on holidays when you want to spend time with friends or partners.
Photo by PR Times
The amazing jumbo melon buns at Asakusa Kagetsudo have been featured on various media outlets. With a crunchy exterior and fluffy soft interior, on the weekends over 2000 of these incredible buns are sold each day, making them a favorite of many.
If you would like to try the richest green tea gelato in the world, then look no further than Suzukien Asakusa. Using the matcha green tea as it stands, this rich and deep gelato will have to addicted to its flavor in no time.
Kakigori, shave ice, is the food the Japanese think of when hearing the word summer. At the green tea specialty shop Chakura you can enjoy original shaved ice dishes topped with green tea, adzuki and ice cream too. The soft ice melts instantly on the tongue as the flavor spreads; a surefire way to relieve the heat of Japan's intense summers.
Photo by Pixta
Asakusa Kibidango Azuma, another well-established shop, stands on Nakamise-dori and sells exactly what its name implies, kibidango (millet dumplings). The hot, steamed dumplings have a simple sweetness to them, which is their own trait, and they create an amazing harmony inside your mouth. These dumplings make the perfect accompaniment to cold green tea on a hot summer day.
A common dessert or snack in Japan, taiyaki are fish-shaped cakes made from wheat flour that has red bean paste and other fillings wrapped in it before being cooked on a special griddle. Asakusa's Kurikoan has a special summer menu featuring whipped cream and red bean mixed cold kurikoyaki which are popular with younger people.
Located near the Asakusa View Hotel, Asakusa Naniwaya is a cafe well-known for its fluffy shaved ice and exquisitely flavored red bean taiyaki. This shop is so popular that, on weekends and holidays, you are sure to see rows of people lined up just waiting for a seat. If you would like to visit this shop, we recommend heading in on a weekday instead in the early afternoon to dusk.
An important ingredient in Japanese home-cooking is kombu (edible kelp). Kombu no Kawahito is where you will find sakura petal and even Japanese character kombu cut outs for sale.
If you would like to enjoy sushi while in Asakusa, head to Magurobito, located near Kaminarimon and on Shin-Nakamise-dori. This shop serves exceptionally fresh and delicious maguro tuna and almost always has a line of customers waiting out front.
Asakusa's Mizuguchi Shokudo is a great cheap restaurant with an amazing authentic old Japan atmosphere. Serving home-cooking style dishes like ginger-fried pork and meat and potato stew, as well as a good selection of Japanese sake in a comfortable and relaxing space, this is a hidden yet famous shop in Asakusa.
With its retro appeal, the comfortable tea shop Tengoku is best known for its delicious pancakes. Standing on a quiet side street from Nakamise-dori, Tengoku is a beloved rest spot of the locals in the Asakusa area and perfect place to take a break from all the hustle and bustle.
Yadoroku, located on a shopping street behind Sensoji Temple, is the oldest onigiri (rice ball) shop in Tokyo. It has been listed in the Michelin Guide for Tokyo, with customers lining up every day before the shop opens. The simple, nostalgic onigiri tastes absolutely delicious.
Visitors can enjoy old-fashioned oden and a view of Tokyo Skytree at Otafuku, located near the Sumida River. The fragrant broth made from a centuries-old recipe is superb.
There are various lodging facilities in Asakusa from ryokan (traditional-style Japanese inn) to hostels and guesthouses designed with a Japanese aesthetic.
Onyado Nono Asakusa, located near Asakusa Hanayashiki amusement park, has saunas and kuroyu, a natural black hot spring. Guests can take their shoes off in the room and relax while enjoying tasty meals and hospitable service.
From Asakusa Station, it is only a minute walk to Dormy Inn Global Cabin Asakusa. The ten-story hotel has a large bathing room and sauna on the top floor, where guests can enjoy a sprawling view of Asakusa from the open-air bath. Since there are many famous unagi (freshwater eel) restaurants in Asakusa, the hotel also serves unagi-meshi for breakfast.
Andon Ryokan is the first designer ryokan (a traditional-style Japanese inn) in Tokyo. All of the guest rooms feature a Japanese aesthetic. However, the inn is not only known for its design, but also for the delicious meals cooked by the proprietress. Those looking to experience the shitamachi (traditional working-class neighborhood) lifestyle should book a stay at this facility.
Kaminarimon Ryokan is located next to the iconic Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate). The traditional furnishings alongside various modern devices serve as reminders to guests that they are in a Japanese inn. English-speaking staff at the reception is another reassurance for overseas visitors worrying about language barriers.
There are other unique hotels in the area, such as the Khaosan World Asakusa Ryokan & Hostel.
Stylish and affordable facilities, such as the Tokyo Hikari Guesthouse and Sakura Hostel Asakusa, are also popular among overseas visitors. Sukeroku no Yado Sadachiyo, a ryokan with a long history, is another accommodation option. Travelers should select lodgings that suit their budget and personal tastes.
Throughout the year there are many different festivals held in Asakusa. In April, the Nakizumo is an unusual event where infants around 1 year of age are handed to different sumo wrestlers, and the baby that can cry the loudest of all is the winner.
Asakusa's representative festival, Sanja Matsuri sees 100 omikoshi (portable shrines) and their attendants gather together in the grounds of Asakusa Shrine to shout, dance and parade about the streets of Asakusa, which ring with the sounds of these revelers.
July's Shitamachi Tanabata Festival sees stripes of brightly colored paper with wishes written on them hanging from bamboo stalks all throughout the streets of Asakusa, as well as the Hozuki-ichi (Ground Cherry Market) at Sensoji, where talismans in this form are sold.
The streets of Asakusa are dyed in the colors of samba during the annual Samba Carnival that takes place in the last weeks of August.
Tori no Ichi is a three part festival that takes place during the month of November. During this time, those praying for prosperous business and disaster prevention can purchase a kumade (decorative bamboo rake), talisman from Otori Shrine.
If you happen to be visiting Asakusa at the end of the year, you will find an incalculable number of hagoita, or battledore (an early badminton racket) on display and for sale.
These toys have been historically believed to be lucky amulets against evil spirits in Japan, so if you are in Asakusa at the end of the year, why not find a colorful battledore to give to someone as a gift?
To reach Asakusa, any of the following lines will do: Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Tobu Isesaki Line, Tobu SkyTree line, Toei Asakusa Line, or the Tsukuba Express. To directly reach Asakusa from Narita Airport, you will want to take the Keisei Narita Sky Access line (heading to Oshiage), which in most cases will also directly connect to the Toei Asakusa Line and take you to Asakusa Station.
Depending on the time there are also some trains that will not directly travel to Asakusa Station. In this case, get off at Aoto Station (on the Keisei line) and switch to the Toei Asakusa line bound for Oshiage. It will take about 57 minutes in total to travel from Narita to Asakusa, and costs 1,310 yen.
The route from Haneda Airport to Asakusa is quite easy to understand, and quite reasonably priced. From either the Haneda Airport International or Domestic Terminal stations, take the Keikyu Kuuko line Airport Special Express bound for Narita Airport, and you will arrive at the Toei Asakusa line Asakusa Station in about 36 minutes. The fare costs 660 yen.
From Shinjuku, Tokyo's largest business district, to Asakusa takes about 26 by train. You will need to take two trains, the JR Chuo-Sobu line and the Toei Asakusa Line. From JR Shinjuku Station, take the local Chuo-Sobu line bound for Chiba to Asakusabashi Station; this will take about 20 minutes. Then, switch to the Toei Asakusa line train bound for Aoto Station, and you will arrive at Asakusa Station in 2 minutes. The fare for this route costs 350 yen. If you are planning to visit Shinjuku, be sure to stop by Asakusa as well.
Ueno is another old downtown business district like Asakusa. When you want to travel from Ueno to Asakusa, you will need to take the Tokyo Metro Ginza line bound for Asakusa. The total fare is 170 yen and it takes about 5 minutes to reach Asakusa.
It will take between 20-30 minutes walking from Ueno Station.
If you are going to be traveling from Tokyo, Shibuya or Ginza stations, read the article below for the best routes.
The vast majority of the sightseeing spots, souvenir shops, restaurants and highlights of Asakusa are all found within walking distance from the station. But if you would like to travel a bit more widely, then the bus, water taxi, rickshaw, rental bikes and other modes of transportation are our recommendation.
Photo by Pixta
If you are going to be traveling with your family, then taking the bus might be best for you. Operating every day of the year, there is a Megurin bus at every stop throughout the Taito ward area every 15 minutes. The fare is only 100 yen, and there are low-floor buses that are perfect for the elderly and those with small children. To read more about this bus, refer to this link: Sightseeing from Asakusa's Tour Bus "Megurin".
For just 200 yen a day, you can rent a bicycle and cycle all around Asakusa. There are four bicycle rental spots around the Asakusa area, so if you are planning on visiting SkyTree, Ueno and other areas near Asakusa, this might be the best option for you. Try a Rental Bike to Get Around Asakusa has more on this fun service.
Photo by Pixta
Flowing by Asakusa is the Sumida River, and taking in the view of this historical downtown from the river is certainly a valuable experience. TOKYO CRUISE, the water taxi, travels a course running from Asakusa to Hamarikyu, Hinodesanbashi, and Odaiba Beach Park. The fare for this means of transportation varies by destination, and ranges from 780 to 1,280 yen. As you can take in many of the sightseeing spots during this ride, the water taxi is quite popular with tourists all year round.
Photo by Pixta
One of the staples of sightseeing in Asakusa is the rickshaw, a two-wheeled carriage pulled by a person that seat two people. One of the charms of the rickshaw is the drivers themselves; as they are very well-versed in the history and area around Asakusa, they can take you anywhere and give you the latest information everything from famous places to little hole-in-the-wall spots that only the locals know.
While there are many rickshaw companies working in Asakusa, Jidaisha, in particular, has a great reputation and offers various tour courses: from a 30 minute course costing 7,000 yen per person, to the in-depth Asakusa course which takes 3 hours (and costs 32,500 yen per person), with numerous options in-between.
The Asakusa district flourished around Sensoji Temple, which has been a gathering spot for visitors and pilgrims for many centuries. This area is one of Tokyo's historical landmarks and shouldn't be left out of any itinerary in Japan.
We hope you'll use the information introduced above as a reference and that you'll enjoy your time in Asakusa to the fullest.