Asakusa (浅草) is a smaller district in Northeastern Tokyo (東京). Here, some of Tokyo’s old ongoing cultural traditions are being kept even today.
In the past, when Tokyo was called Edo, Asakusa was not part of the city itself, but outside of it. It was home to mostly kabuki theaters and red-light establishments until more forms of entertainment settled down here in the 19th and 20th century.
Today, you can still experience some of the former feel of Asakusa, although it has drastically diminished after World War II. The district took heavy damage and many of its popular sites were destroyed.
Sensoji Temple, Asakusa’s most famous attraction with the big red bell, was properly rebuilt and enjoys great popularity again. Asakusa still has plenty of shopping and entertainment areas to offer, which I will briefly display in just a minute.
Totally worth a visit
It is not as extravagant as Shibuya (渋谷) or Shinjuku (新宿), but definitely not boring. Also, you may have heard about Tokyo Sky Tree, that over 500 meter tall tower. It’s located just east of Asakusa, not far by foot.
In general, as Asakusa is not the biggest area, you can explore it just fine on foot. If you want to use a little more special kind of transportation, you can pay for a rickshaw ride (jinrikisha (人力車) in Japanase).
30 minutes for 2 people usually costs around 8000-9000 Yen (63€/$72-69€/$82).
Let’s get to the list! 5 amazing things to do in Asakusa:
1. Sensoji Temple
You have probably seen a picture of this. Huge red bell, long shopping street behind, loads of temple buildings. Tokyo’s most popular temple is definitely worth your visit!
It is also Tokyo’s oldest temple, being completed in the 7th century.
The temple stretches from the first front gate all the way up to its second gate and beyond. The 200 meters between the two is filled with small shops and restaurants known as the Nakamise Street.
The best thing is that you can enter for free!
Sensoji Temple is located literally 2 minutes outside of Asakusa Station (浅草駅).
2. Nakamise Shopping Street
This Shopping Street lies right behind the first gate (Kaminarimon) of Sensoji Temple. Here, you can purchase all kinds of traditional items like yukata, fans or shoes and delicious street food like yakitori (焼き鳥), yakisoba (焼きそば) or takoyaki (たこ焼き).
I came here on my first full day in Tokyo in summer 2017. Besides the main street, there is a smaller alley with shops aligned on the side. There, I found this amazing melon bread (メロンパン) shop that was super popular.
I have since not eaten melon pan which was more delicious (and I ate a ton of it let me tell you). Definitely recommended if you like freshly baked sweets.
3. Sumida Park
Sumida Park is a nice greenly area that stretches along the Sumida River. In early April’s Cherry Blossom season, you can catch some very good views on the trees here. In July, you can enjoy the annual fireworks as well.
Additionally, you can board a cruising boat and go along the Sumida River for a nice afternoon activity.
You will reach Sumida Park after about 11 minutes of walking.
4. Rokku Entertainment District
This area was the rising and popular entertainment district I talked about above. Japan’s (日本) very first cinema was opened here.
As already mentioned, this place’s popularity unfortunately did not start off where it left at because of other, more popular areas being on the rise.
However, you can still find a lot of stuff to do here, mainly theatres, cinemas and pachinko parlors if you’re up to those.
Rokku Entertainment District is about a 10-minutes’ walk from Asakusa Station.
5. Asahi Beer Tower
Now this is my favorite one. I was so baffled the first time I saw this. But that was mostly to my ignorance of the matter I suppose.
Anyway, there is this giant Asahi (one of the leading breweries in Japan) Beer Tower that is designed to look like a glass full of beer.
Next to it, there is a smaller bar with their iconic Flamme d’Or on top of it. A French designer named Philippe Starck designed the whole complex.
When I saw it for the first time, I didn’t know it was supposed to be an iconic symbol. I was just wondering what that could be. It’s easily the funniest and most unique design of a building complex that I have so far seen in Japan.
You can reach the Asahi Beer Hall/Tower within 5 minutes of walking from Asakusa Station. It’s right on the other side of the bridge.
How to get to Asakusa
JR Yamanote Line unfortunately does not serve Asakusa Station as it lies a little outside of the city center. You can get there pretty easily anyway:
From Tokyo Station
Take the JR Yamanote Line to Kanda Station (神田駅) where you then transfer to the Ginza Subway line heading straight towards Asakusa. The ride will take about 15 minutes and costs 310 Yen (2,38€/$2.82).
From any JR Yamanote served station
Head towards Kanda Station and follow the procedure above. From Shinjuku for example, it takes about 10 minutes to get to Kanda Station.
Depending on which station you are at, it can be faster to take a different line, but only if you’re far away from Kanda Station.
Rides on the JR Yamanote Line (or any JR Line) are fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
Asakusa is easily one of my favorite places in Tokyo. Sensoji Temple and the Nakamise Street alone make for a really cool 1-2 hour (if not more) activity.
Anyone who is a fan of street food, small shops and amazing tradition should come here. Senso-ji is always a very good example of what a classic temple feels like as you can do pretty much everything known as a temple activity (prayer, Omikuji, incense burning, etc.).
For more detail, check out my post about how to visit a Japanese temple!
I will write an individual article on Senso-ji as well.
That’s it for Asakusa. Thank you very much for reading! Please share it with your friends or drop a comment down below if you liked it!
See you then!