Translated by Daniel Hanrahan
Terakoya-i, a Tourist Spot for Asakusa's History and Culture
Written by yohei matsui
This tourist center features a Japanese cafe in which you can try matcha, Japanese sake, and even try wearing a kimono! Rent a kimono and walk around Asakusa!
Hanagawado in the Taitō ward, Tokyo, is known as a "footwear wholesale town". It is a quiet area away from the center of Asakusa, with not so many tourists.
However, it's also true that because there are fewer tourists, it's more economically challenged. It's not unusual to see businesses that have been around for a long time suddenly close up shop.
In order to make use of these vacant businesses, the local authorities of the Taitō ward have launched the 'Vacancy Renewal Project'.
About a 7-minute walk from Asakusa Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line there is a new type of tourist information center called 'Terakoya-i', which is one of these new projects. So what exactly is different about it?
A Cafe Type Tourist Info Office, Showing Asakusa's Attractions
On the first floor of Terakoya is a Japanese-styled cafe. Today, a female visitor from overseas is taking a break and reading an Asakusa guide book while having traditional Japanese green tea.
On the surrounding walls there are items detailing the history of Asakusa. On a long narrow sheet, an old town alongside the Sumida River is depicted. Asakusa and Azuma Bridge, what the buildings in the area looked like hundreds of years ago, along with the people who would often traverse those bridges, are all carefully explained along with Ukiyo-e depictions.
The staff in the store can speak English, so if you have trouble understanding the Japanese in the displays or elsewhere, feel free to ask them any questions.
Unique Japanese Style Cafe Menu
Terakoya's menu is a slightly different Japanese taste. They have regular items such as coffee etc., but the main features are Japanese style tea and Japanese sake.
By the way, you'll be able to order easily as the menu is in English and comes with photos.
Traditional Japanese green tea (500 yen including Japanese sweet), is prepared right before your eyes - something that's unusual to see even for Japanese people.
Furthermore, for another 100 yen, you can prepare the tea yourself. Let's get the required utensils ready.
First, after warming up the cup with boiling water, put the green tea powder in and pour in the boiling water.
Then the only thing left to do is to stir it the way you're taught. It's very basic, but this is one way to easily experience Japanese culture.
You can also order Japanese sake. Prices are from 600 yen. A glass filled with sake is a lovely sight indeed.
This is a set of three types of sake (1000 yen). You can compare the tastes of the different types, and discover your personal sake preference.
Arrive Empty-Handed and Learn Kimono Wearing
On the 2nd floor is a Kimono classroom. You can learn about this traditional form of dress and how to put it on directly from an instructor.
But they don't just put the kimono on for you, they also teach you how to put it on for yourself.
Although it is possible to bring your own kimono, for travellers the classroom can provide rental kimonos. So after you've learned how to put it on, you can enjoy a nice walk around Asakusa in your kimono just like the women of traditional Japan.
The class costs 2,500 yen. The footwear 'Geta' can be borrowed for free in order to go for a walk, and the socks, or 'Tabi' are an additional 500 yen. These are a separate purchase so they are also ideal as a souvenir.
So then, lets see what happens in the classroom with the following photos.
First, using the instructor's example as a base, let's learn how to tie the 'Obi', or sash.
The instructor will teach you by hand directly so even first timers will do fine.
Now, once the Obi is tied on nicely, you'll probably feel like taking a walk around the town.
The view from the side is extremely lovely. By the way, the instructor isn't always available, so be sure to check in advance. She is mostly there in the mornings on weekdays, so please choose your visit accordingly.
Check Facebook for Event Times!
Terakoya runs events such as the Japanese sake group and the gramophone group etc., on a non-fixed schedule, so please always check their Facebook page before your visit.
Terakoya is a place you can visit in order to just have a break from your travels around Asakusa, or in order to learn and experience Japanese culture. They plan to continually add new services going into the future as well.
Definitely pay them a visit next time you're in Asakusa.
Address: 2-7-8 Hanakawado, Taitō-ku, Tokyo Japan
Hours: 10am - 6pm (Excluding night events and special classes)
Languages: Japanese, English
Foreign Language Menu: Available
Closest Station: Asakusa Station, Tokyo Metro Ginza Line
Access: 7-minute walk from all Asakusa stations.
Web site: Terakoya-i