Asakusa () is a part of Tokyo's downtown Taito district best known for its many temples, particularly Sensōji.
Airport Limousine's service runs everyday from Narita Airport to Asakusa for ¥2,800. It arrives at Asakusa View Hotel, right next to Asakusa Station.
Cruises down the Sumidagawa river depart from a wharf only 5-minute walk from the temple, by the Azuma-bashi bridge. There are a number of boat routes available, so have a look at the map and then decide which one to pick. Options include services of Tokyo Cruise Ship and a number of the traditional Yakatabuke ships.
KaminarimonUp first, it features a much-photographed giant lantern and statues of guardian gods Raijin (god of thunder) and Fūjin (god of wind). First built in 942, the gate has been destroyed numerous times and the current incarnation dates to only 1950. The Nakamise shopping arcade leading up to the temple starts after the gate (see Buy).
HōzōmonAt the end of the arcade, it is the main gate, notable for a giant straw sandal (waraji) hung up on one side. This gate too is guarded by ferocious guardian gods.
KannondōBehind the gate, the main temple is perennially busy with a steady stream of worshippers wafting incense over themselves and trooping up the steps to pray and donate. According to legend, the hall was built in 628 to house a statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, fished out of the Sumida River by two brothers.
GojūnotōIt reputedly contains some of the ashes of the Buddha.
Other temples and shrines
Asakusa JinjaTo the east behind the temple is this Shinto shrine devoted to protecting the Buddhist temple in a typically Japanese arrangement. The fairly plain shrine is not much to look at, but is notable as the focal point of the Sanja Matsuri festival (see Do).
Chingodō ShrineIf you turn left before the Hōzōmon gate and head west for a few hundred meters, this quiet shrine is on your left. The shrine is dedicated to the Japanese raccoon god tanuki, notably primarily for its big flask of sake and gigantic testicles (at least when depicted as a statue).
Dembō-in TempleLocated right next to Sensō-ji (to which it belongs), this temple has a spectacular Japanese garden. While generally closed to the public, they do open for exhibitions every year from roughly mid-March to early May. Other than the (small) garden itself, which is best in the cherry blossom (sakura) season, the exhibition also features some of the Temple's cultural treasures. Note, that the temple only opened every few years previously, and while they have opened every year most recently, this can change once again. The entrance is close to the five-story pagoda (Gojūnotō) of the Sensō-ji temple (see above).
Sanja MatsuriOrganized at Asakusa Jinja yearly on the third weekend in May, this is Tokyo's largest festival (matsuri) and attracts up to 2 million spectators. The main event is a procession known as Daigyōretsu, when traditional performers and musicians parade through the streets, while on the next two days portable shrines (mikoshi) are carried to and from the temple for purification.
Asakusa Samba CarnivalHeld on the last Saturday of August. The street parade, which features thousands of participants from all over Japan, is held in the afternoon around Sensoji, and there are some stage shows in the evening. The event started in 1981, it's the biggest party of the year for the many Japanese-Brazilian residents of Tokyo.
HanayashikiNext to the Sensoji temple grounds is this small and somewhat lackluster carnival complex with rides, booths, and games. The neighborhood theatre specializes in showing classic Japanese films, as many of the tourists are elderly Japanese.
NakamiseThis busy covered shopping arcade leads from the Kaminarimon gate to the temple, selling all sorts of Buddhist paraphernalia as well as assorted tourist kitsch. This is one of the best places in Tokyo to buy souvenirs (the other being the Oriental Bazaar in Omotesando), but note more expensive items such as swords and kimonos are likely to be of inferior quality. Slightly nicer crafts, rather than mass-produced kitsch, can be found at good prices if you walk up to the temple, turn right, and turn right again on the first small street running parallel to Nakamise. You will see plenty of small shops in this general area which have better quality souvenirs and gifts, like handkerchiefs, strings of hand-made silk balls, hairclips, etc.
KappabashiA more offbeat shopping option, it is best reached from Tawaramachi station on the Ginza line. This is Tokyo's restaurant wholesale district, which sells plastic food, metal spatulas, deep fryers and an immense variety of affordable crockery. Some shops sell only in wholesale quantities, but many are happy to sell single items and factory-made Japanese pottery (which to the casual eye is indistinguishable from the handmade kind) can sell for as little as ¥100 a piece. Another bargain is high-quality Japanese kitchen knives, which are generally much cheaper in Japan. Note that most stores here are closed on Sundays.
Denkamaaddress: at the corner of Kappabashi-dori and Asakusa-doriA particularly good boutique specializing in handmade Japanese pottery. The discount racks outside are downright cheap at several hundred yen a pop, but more expensive items on the second floor may run into tens of thousands of yen.
Asakusabashi (浅草橋), two stops south on the Toei Asakusa Line, is a wholesale district which these days is known for its shops specializing in bead craft supplies. There are also many stores selling traditional Japanese festival and party supplies.
address: Asakusabashi 2-1-10No less than 5 floors of plastic baubles of all shapes and sizes. Three shops in Asakusabashi alone, the largest near exits A4 and A2 of the metro.
address: Kaminarimon 2-19-10After an exhausting day visiting the temples, grab some hot steamed dumplings outside, or step inside for traditional desserts such as oshiruko (grilled rice cake in a sweet-bean porridge) or cream an-mitsu (gelatin cubes in molasses with candied fruit and ice cream). This very simple shop serving tea and sweets has been in business since 1852.
address: Asakusa 1－２－２Over 150 years of history. Try their tempura and soba set! Or the fresh deep fried flour/batter at the front of the restaurant. You can smell them from a mile away, because they use sesame oil.
Kagetsudophone: +81 3-5830-3534address: Asakusa 1-18-11This place has been making "melon pan" since 1945, and they haven't changed the decoration. It is a buttery and milky small cake with a crispy sweet crust.
phone: +81 3 3841-0110address: 1-4-4 AsakusaGood tempura in a convenient location, with fifty years of history behind it.
Daikokuyaaddress: 1-38-10 AsakusaArguably Tokyo's most famous tempura restaurant, with a history of more than 100 years. Be prepared for extremely long queues during meal times. An English menu is available on request.
Asakusa's local specialty drink is Denki Bran, a stiff brandy-based cocktail which originated at the Kamiya Bar but can be ordered at most drinking establishments in the area.
phone: +81 3 3841-5400address: Asakusa 1-1-1The home of the Denki Bran cocktail; first opened in 1880 and a truly local institution. The ground floor is a large beer-hall-like bar, the second is a western-style restaurant, and the upper floor serves Japanese food. Find a seat at one of the shared tables, buy your tickets at the counter, and join in the fun.
Bar Sandglassaddress: Asakusa, Kaminarimon 1-16-2If stuck in Asakusa at drinking time, Bar Sandglass is a good place to stop. This stylish, diminutive (max. 10 people - don't bring a crowd) bar is tucked away in the back streets of Asakusa. For a drink with the friendly locals any night of the week, this is the place to come; no Japanese ability necessary.
phone: +81 3-3842-0988address: Asakusa 2-12-4Asakusa Naniwaya branch the original of Taiyaki Naniwaya Sohonten (Azabu Jyu-ban).The cafe in the shop, you can enjoy the Green tea and coffee with all handmade Japanese sweets.
address: Matsugaya 1-11-3A cigar bar that serves coffee, alcoholic drinks, and desserts. There is a large cigar selection, in particular from the Dominican Republic.
Khaosan Tokyo GuesthouseThis group of guest houses has 3 hostels within 5 minutes of Asakusa station. They also run a traveler's bar and you get 1 free drink when you stay. There are dormitories as well as private rooms available.
address: 2-24-2 AsakusaThe largest hostel in Tokyo, behind a theme park and with a direct view of Tokyo Skytree, the world's second highest construction. Accommodations for individual backpackers, families, and group travelers. Very friendly English speaking staff.
Taito RyokanAn old post-war house converted into an inn. Friendly staff. Shared shower; two shared baths. No frills and thin walls, but you can't beat the price. A few blocks from Nakamise Street and Sensoji temple.
Tokyo RyokanA modern inn with high standard. Friendly staff. Shared shower and bathrooms. Just rooms and futons are provided, but at a low price.
address: 台東区寿4-14-9This is a co-ed capsule hotel (gender separated by floor). No English is spoken, but staff are familiar with foreigners and have information in English on printouts.
Ryokan ShigetsuA nice small hotel with a mix of Japanese style and western style room next to the famous Nakamise Street in Asakusa. Friendly and helpful staff. Free internet in all rooms, two Japanese style baths and showers.
address: 2-20-1 AsakusaJapanese style ryokan. On a quiet street. All rooms have shower/bath and toilet. Internet available. Two public baths, two tatami banquet halls, and a lounge.
- Kinugawa — a hot spring resort fallen on hard times
- Nikko — with its national parks and opulent shrines
- Tochigi — A worthwhile day trip from Tokyo for its preserved architecture and old shops.