Asakusa

When I lived in Tokyo, I was constantly astounded by the mixture of old and new, tradition and modernity. Despite the differences between glass skyscrapers and wooden shrines, everything seemed to blend together seamlessly. That’s probably what I like the most about Asakusa, a popular destination that used to be home to Tokyo’s entertainment district in the Edo period (1603-1867). Although the area was bombed and severely damaged by World War II, today Asakusa offers a rich cultural experience as well as modern thrills.

With the Tokyo Sky Tree in the distance, first glimpses make Asakusa seems like just another modern district

With the Tokyo Sky Tree in the distance, first glimpses make Asakusa seems like just another modern district

Asakusa is probably best known for Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist Temple. Thousands of people flock here every day to pay their respects to the bodhisattva Kannon, or visit one of the other many shrines in the area.

Kaminarimon, the entrance gate that leads to Senso-ji Temple

Kaminarimon, the entrance gate that leads to Senso-ji Temple

Senso-ji Temple

Senso-ji Temple

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My favorite part of the Temple grounds, however, was the long corridor of both traditional and modern shops that offer everything from keychains and Hello Kitty bags to yukata (summer robes) and traditional street snacks.

The main shopping street, Nakamise

The main shopping street, Nakamise

Here's the main street later on in the year. The decorations change to match the seasons

Here’s the main street later on in the year. The decorations change to match the seasons

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Asakusa is a great place to find souvenirs, especially if you’re looking for traditional Japanese arts. I must have come here 5 times, in search of the perfect gifts for my family and friends.

Traditional Japanese sandals, also called zori

Traditional Japanese sandals, also called zori

Ceramic dishes and cute pigs!

Ceramic dishes and cute pigs!

I regretted buying one of these, even though they were close to $40

I regretted not buying one of these, even though they were close to $30

Owl coin purses

Owl coin purses

Kimono shop

Kimono shop

Hungry? Asakusa is widely known for its tempura. Although I never had a chance to try it, I still had plenty of amazing meals in and around the temple. If you’re in the mood for a traditional snack, the vendors of the nakamise have plenty of options. If not, there are dozens of noodle shops and Western cafes just outside. My favorite food of Asakusa would have to be the ice cream- I’ve never seen so many interesting flavors from one vendor, and I wanted to try them all! I’ll cover the street food of Japan a little later, but here’s a few meals I managed to enjoy in Asakusa:

So many flavors!!

So many flavors!!

My favorite flavors- green tea on the left and sakura (cherry blossom) on the right

My favorite flavors- green tea on the left and sakura (cherry blossom) on the right

Other meals from Asakusa: katsu (pork cutlet) with soba noodles

Katsu (pork cutlet) with soba noodles

Kitsune udon

Kitsune (sweet fried tofu) udon

Gyoza (dumpling) set with fried chicken and rice

Gyoza (dumpling) set with fried chicken and rice

Asakusa is a great place to check out traditional Tokyo, but if you’re missing modernity, there are plenty of options around. Just across the Sumida river lies Tokyo Skytree, Japan’s tallest structure and the tallest tower in the world. There, guests can shop, explore an aquarium, eat at 5-star restaurants, and observe Tokyo from its full height of over 2000 feet.

Asakusa near the Sumida River, with the Tokyo Skytree in the distance

Asakusa near the Sumida River, with the Tokyo Skytree in the distance

I think the Tokyo Skytree is a post for another time. Until then, enjoy Asakusa and the cultural experience it has to offer. Where do you want to visit next? Let me know in the comments below!

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4 thoughts on “Asakusa

  1. you made me miss my time there man. I don’t know when I’ll go there again because there’re so many other places that I want to go to, like the Osaka area, Hokkaido, and the place further south (the island but I forgot the name).

    • I know how you feel! Although I spent most of my time in Tokyo, there are still so many places I want to go back and visit. The Osaka/Nara/Kyoto region is absolutely stunning though- definitely check out down south in Japan if you ever go back! (:

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