Written by Hilary Keyes
15 Exciting Things To Do In Asakusa
The traditional downtown area of Tokyo and home to many internationally known sightseeing spots, Asakusa is full of classic Japanese things to both see and do! Here are 15 classic Japanese things to try in ever popular Asakusa.
Asakusa is one of the most popular sightseeing areas in Tokyo. Despite suffering extensive damage during the Tokyo bombings that took place during the Second World War, the area was rebuilt and the preserved historical shitamachi (downtown area) of Asakusa is now one of the most visited tourist spots in the city.
Here you will find the famed Sensoji Temple and the great paper lantern of Kaminarimon, but there are dozens, if not hundreds of incredible things to both see and do here, many of which you won't find in most guidebooks. Here are 15 classic things to do in Asakusa.
1. Asakusa Tourist Culture Information Center - Enjoy the View!
While you might think that you have your route all sorted out when visiting Asakusa, you might want to reconsider your options and visit the Asakusa Tourist Culture Information Center first. This eight-story center stands right across from Kaminarimon, the entrance to Sensoji Temple, and is the place to go if you need wi-fi, want to see limited time exhibits related to the area, grab a bite to eat, or get guidance and support while sightseeing in Asakusa.
But the main reason you should visit is for the view from their eighth floor observatory. Although the eighth floor might not sound like much when compared to other observation decks in the city, this is the only place you can take in a clear and full sweeping view of Sensoji Temple, Kaminarimon and Tokyo Skytree all at once.
|Address||Tokyo, Taito, Kaminarimon 2-18-9|
|Business Time||9:00-20:00 (cafe opens from 10:00, Observation Terrace open until 22:00)|
|Fixed holidays||Open Year Round|
|Accepted Credit Cards||Not Available|
|Languages||English, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Korean|
|Menu/Pamphlets in Other Languages||English, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Korean|
|Nearest station||Asakusa Station|
|Access||Tokyo Metro Ginza Line - 1 minute walk from Exit 2 Asakusa Station. Toei Subway Asakusa Line - 2 minute walk from A4 Exit Asakusa Station. Tsukuba Express - 10 minute walk from A1 Exit Asakusa Station|
2. Asahi Super Dry Hall - Figure Out What the Golden Thing Is!
When you come out of Asakusa Station and look towards Sumida river and Tokyo Skytree, you may notice this strange, gold "thingy" on top of a glittering black building.
This is the Asahi Super Dry Hall, one of the offices of the Asahi Beer Company, and a landmark in the Asakusa area. You'll likely see scores of people taking photos of this strange gold object, and hear of it being called a 'golden cloud' or sometimes even a 'gold poo' by bewildered folks wondering just what exactly it is.
If you want to know just what it's meant to represent, take a look at this article and head to the Asahi Super Dry Hall to find out for yourself!
3. Asakusa's Underground Shopping Center - Check Out Retro Asakusa
Have you ever wondered what life was like in Japan during the postwar period? If you have, then you might want to head to Asakusa's Underground Shopping Center, easily reached from EKIMISE, a shopping center and the Tobu Asakusa Line's Asakusa Station.
This shopping center is not very well known even to the Japanese, despite having been open since 1955, but there are many great and cheap Japanese restaurants, bars, and shops catering to the busy working person here. Not only that, but the majority of them have been in business since the shopping center first opened. If you want to see a retro slice of life in Tokyo, then this is the place to go.
4. Souvenir Hunting in Asakusa - So Many Options
One thing that everyone does in Asakusa is shop for souvenirs. Why wouldn't you? Here there are literally hundreds of stores selling thousands of items; everything from simple postcards to green tea snacks all the way to antique kimono and authentic samurai swords or original Japanese handicrafts can be easily found at this very station.
That being said, knowing just where to find what you are looking for can be quite the challenge. Nakamise Dori - the street in front of Sensoji Temple, EKIMISE, Rox, and of course Asakusa's Don Quijote are great places to start the search for the perfect souvenir, and are sightseeing spots in their own right as well.
5. Asakusa Shrine - A Shrine Beside a Temple?
Off to the right of Sensoji Temple, you will notice a tall torii shrine gate and long pathway - this is the entrance way to Sensoji's neighbor, Asakusa Shrine. While it might seem hard fathom at first, the relationship between Japan's native religion, Shinto, and the imported Buddhism, is very syncretic, so having these two structures side by side just seems to make sense.
Asakusa Shrine is where the two men who founded Sensoji Temple are enshrined, and is yet another peaceful spot in the complex that is said to offer blessings regarding safe travels, familial happiness, and in whatever your heart desires. Plus, here you can find an unusual, all black omamori charm, meant to remind you that 'everything will be alright'.
6. Shichifukujin Pilgrimage - Set Out to Improve Your Luck
The term Shichifukujin, or Seven Lucky Gods, refers to seven deities named Daikokuten, Ebisu, Bishamonten, Fukurokuju, Hotei, Jurojin, and Benzaiten that grant good fortune in different fields such as business, health, creativity, etc. Unfortunately, there aren’t many shrines where they are all enshrined together, so in many cases, if you want to pray for luck in several different areas, you will need to visit many different temples or shrines.
Still, it is believed that he or she who visits all seven shrines and temples where these gods dwell in the right order, will be bestowed with great fortune! This trip is often called the Shichifukujin Pilgrimage. In this photo you can see Yoshiwara Shrine, where the goddess of the arts and intelligence, Benzaiten, is enshrined. She is the only goddess among the Shichifukujin, and as a result, is also said to grant blessings regarding love and fertility.
7. Suzukien - Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth With Matcha Gelato
Although you can now find matcha or green tea ice cream or desserts around the world, the flavor is not quite the same as that sold in Japan, and it's incredible hard to find real matcha gelato no matter where you go.
Suzukien is a 150 year old tea house that sells a wide variety of tea and tea-related products, and is where you will find not one, not two, but seven different matcha gelatos for sale, each of them containing a different strength of green tea added. Seven is the darkest and richest of all, while one has a very mild taste more in keeping with matcha ice cream from overseas. Why not give your taste buds a challenge and see if you can handle the richest matcha gelato in the world?
8. Nishi Sando Shopping Street - A Place Like an Ukiyo-e Painting
If you stand facing Sensoji Temple, turn to your left and take a short walk, you will find yourself facing this amazing structure. This is Nishi Sando, a covered shopping street that looks like something you would find in an Edo period ukiyo-e painting.
The floor of this market is even covered in natural Japanese cypress flooring! This short market area, which has shops selling everything from souvenirs, regional ramen, and samurai swords, is the perfect place to go if you only want to do a little shopping and a lot of seeing Japanese history come to life.
9. Asakusa Kingyo - Try Your Hand at a Japanese Festival Favorite
Kingyo sukui is the term for catching goldfish, and is one of the most popular summer festival activities you can do in Japan. Asakusa Kingyo, which is managed by Kagetsudo, the makers of Asakusa famous melon buns, opened in July 2016 in the Nishi Sando shopping street, and allows visitors to Japan to try catching (and releasing) goldfish!
It only costs 300 yen for three poi (paper covered scoops), but getting the right technique to catch these tricky fish is a lot of fun. Even if you've missed out on the summer festivals, you can head to Asakusa Kingyo and give it your best shot, or even pick up some goldfish themed items to share with friends and family back home.