Hakone

Although Mount Fuji lies only 80 miles from the heart of Tokyo, it’s hard to see the mountain from the city unless it’s a perfectly clear day. While I arrived in Tokyo at the end of Mount Fuji’s official climbing season, I still wanted to get up close and see one of Japan’s most iconic landmarks.

Mount Fuji Hakone

If you want to enjoy spectacular views of Mount Fuji without climbing it, the tourist town of Hakone offers almost any activity you can imagine, from shopping and exploring museums to relaxing in onsen (hot spring resorts). Hakone lies in the Kanagawa prefecture of Japan, a little over an hour outside of Tokyo.

Hakone Japan

One of the biggest draws of Hakone is Lake Ashi, a scenic lake formed by a crater near Mount Hakone. The lake offers views of Mount Fuji, boat cruises, and several hot springs resorts. Although I stopped at a point where Mount Fuji was barely visible, the beautiful lake more than made up for my lack of view.

Lake Ashi Hakone

Mount Fuji, peeking out behind another mountain in the distance

Lake Ashi Hakone

Many of the pleasure cruise boats on Lake Ashi are modeled after traditional sailing ships, which you can see to the left.

Many vantage points along the shores of Lake Ashi offer souvenir shops as well. If you’re looking for a Fuji-inspired present or a traditional Japanese craft, make sure to stop by.

Mount Fuji souvenirJapanese souvenir

Mount Fuji souvenir

Mount Fuji coin purses! Aren’t these cute?!

 For beautiful views of Mount Fuji, Lake Ashi, and the surrounding countryside, I highly recommend taking a gondola among the mountains, called the Hakone Ropeway. The aerial lift has several stops around the mountains, ending in a stop right by Lake Ashi. This line is one of the best opportunities for sightseeing in the area, particularly during the fall when the leaves are changing.

Hakone ropewayHakone ropeway

Hakone ropeway

While you can take the gondolas for a round trip, I recommend getting off at Owakudani, or the Great Boiling Valley. Owakundani is a volcanic valley with active sulfur vents and hot springs, which offers even better views of Mount Fuji on a clear day, hiking trails along the vents, and souvenirs. You can definitely smell the sulfur in the air, but it’s pretty cool to walk along active steam vents.

Owakundani

Owakundani

Owakundani

Mount Fuji, from a view at Owakundani

Owakundani is known for its kuro tamago, or black eggs. These are a local specialty food in Hakone, where the eggs are boiled in the sulfur hot springs.  As a result, the egg turns black from a chemical reaction and smell like sulfur. Eating a kuro tamago is supposed to add longevity to your life (seven years for every egg), but be warned: if you eat more than two and a half in seventeen years, there could be dire (and unexplained) consequences. I thought the eggs tasted exactly like normal hard-boiled eggs, but eating one gave me a stomachache later.

Owakundani

Hello Kitty/Kuro Tamago photo opportunity? DUH.

Owakundani

Owakundani

The majestic black egg. Oh, and Mount Fuji in the background.

Owakundani Kuro tamago

Just a normal egg on the inside.

If you’re interested in more manmade attractions, Fujiya Hotel is another Hakone must-see. This historic hotel was built in 1891, and is a mixture of both western and Japanese architectural elements that were popular during the Meiji period in Japan. The beautiful hotel has hosted many notable people and celebrities over the years, including the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Charlie Chaplin, Helen Keller, and the Showa Emperor.

Fujiya Hotel HakoneFujiya Hotel Hakone

Fujiya Hotel HakoneIf you can’t stay overnight at the hotel, make sure to take a tour of its rooms and historic artifacts, and plan to stay for dinner. Fujiya is famous for its beef curry, which is served in its French-inspired restaurant.

Fujiya Hotel Hakone

Fujiya’s famous (and expensive!) beef curry.

I ended my time in Hakone at the Hakone Open-Air Museum, a park full of beautiful sculptures, interactive art that you can play on, galleries, and more. With works by Picasso and Henry Moore, it’s a great way to walk around in the fresh air and enjoy some art. My favorite part was a tower constructed from stained glass, which you could climb up inside and enjoy views of Hakone’s countryside.

Hakone Open Air MuseumHakone Open Air MuseumHakone Open Air Museum

Whether you’re looking for spectacular views of Mount Fuji or just want a break from Tokyo, Hakone offers an activity for everyone. Bring good walking shoes and plenty of spending money, as you’ll definitely want to try more than one destination. Hakone is a perfect place to grab an iconic picture of Mount Fuji, and still have plenty more to do.

Hakone Open Air Museum

Next time I’m in Japan though, hopefully I’ll be able to photograph Mount Fuji from its summit instead.

Mount Fuji Hakone

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Kyoto

Kyoto is the final stop on my Kansai journey, and one of my absolute favorite places in Japan. Kyoto is truly the cultural capital of Japan, with buildings and temples that are hundreds of years old and rich history around every corner. Kyoto served as the capital of Japan for over a thousand years (until 1869) and was formerly known as Heian-kyo, or “the capital of tranquility and peace.”

A first glimpse of Kyoto- along the canals

A first glimpse of Kyoto- along the canals.

Although Kyoto is only the 8th largest city in Japan, millions of tourists flock to Kyoto to check out its amazing fall foliage, spring hanami, beautiful temples, and more. With over 2000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, Kyoto is one of the best culturally preserved cities in the world.

Kyoto

I began my journey at Yasaka Shrine, a Shinto shrine that draws thousands of people for New Years celebrations and the Gion Matsuri, a world-famous festival and parade. Just inside its gates, you can purchase Japanese street food from a variety of vendors as you make your way to other sites.

Yasaka Shrine Kyoto

Yasaka Shrine

Yasaka Shrine Kyoto

Many people pass through Yasaka Shrine on their way to Maruyama Park, another extremely popular place to view cherry blossoms in the spring and autumn foliage in the fall. The park has dozens of beautiful walkways, ponds, and Japanese gardens, and many people come here to take pictures in kimono or traditional dress.

Maruyama Park

Maruyama Park KyotoMaruyama Park Kyoto

Maruyama Park Kyoto

Maruyama Park is a perfect place to take pictures. Many tourists visit in beautiful kimono, such as this woman.

From Maruyama Park, you can easily walk to other temples or cultural heritage sites in the area. My favorite was the Higashiyama district, one of Kyoto’s best preserved historical areas. Between its narrow lanes, wooden buildings, traditional architecture and hundreds of small shops, you truly feel as if you are in Heian-kyo or the old capital city.

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The crowded streets of the Higashiyama district.

Higashiyama district kyoto

The district is based on the lower slopes of Kyoto’s eastern mountains, so the walk includes many sets of stairs and inclined walkways. However, the hundreds of traditional shops definitely make up for the physical effort. These souvenir shops, cafes, traditional goods markets, and restaurants have been open for centuries. They continue to sell many local goods- including sweets, fabric crafts, pickles, pottery, and more- today.

Higashiyama district kyoto

Kyoto is famous for its fabric goods, which can be found in many of its traditional shops. These are little plush sushi souvenirs!

Higashiyama district kyoto

Higashiyama district kyoto

A sign for a famous cosmetics company in Japan

When walking through any part of Kyoto, you may also see young women dressed in bright and elaborate kimono, with white makeup and intricate hairstyles. These women are known as geisha, Japanese entertainers who perform traditional arts such as dance and classical music. Geisha are often regarded as one of the most famous cultural symbols of Japan, even though their numbers are severely decreasing. While there used to be over 80,000 geisha in Japan during the early 20th century, today there are less than 2,000.

Kyoto geisha

Kyoto geishaHowever, most of the women you see dressed up on the streets are not true geisha, but tourists who pay anywhere from $100 to $500 to be dressed up, have their photo taken, and walk around. Real geisha are often swarmed by photographers as they leave their homes or entertaining sites, and carry themselves in an extremely sophisticated and professional manner. Many of the “geisha” you see on the streets in Kyoto are laughing, taking silly pictures, or are wearing accessories that aren’t appropriate for the current season. Either way, they still look beautiful!

Kyoto geisha

Kyoto geisha

These girls definitely knew that I was taking their picture.

Kyoto geisha

This girl is a gaijin (foreigner) dressed up. I still could’t resist taking taking her picture.

Gion, a traditional district in Kyoto that originated during the Middle Ages, is one of the most well-known geisha districts in all of Japan. This district may sound familiar; it’s the setting for Arthur Golden’s famous novel Memoirs of a Geisha. The streets, which run along the Shirakawa Canal, have a number of traditional teahouses (called ochaya) and other entertainment venues that geisha still frequent today. We didn’t see any, but it was still an amazing experience to walk along the same streets that I had only read about before.

Gion kyoto

Gion kyoto

A beautiful lantern in Gion

Gion kyoto

Shirakawa Canal

Gion KyotoAlthough there are thousands of beautiful temples and shrines to see in Kyoto, one final point of interest that I recommend is Fushimi Inari-taisha, a Shinto shrine that is famous for its thousands of torii gates. This shrine has walking trails up a mountain that are flanked by thousands of wooden torii, which are donated by businesses and individuals. This shrine is the most important out of thousands of shrines across Japan dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice.

Fushimi Inari-taisha Kyoto

Fushimi Inari-taisha Kyoto Fushimi Inari-taisha Kyoto

I unfortunately visited Fushimi Inari-taisha in the dark, but the thousands of torii were still breathtaking. I recommend visiting with plenty of daylight left, so you can climb the mountain and enjoy some spectacular views of Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari-taisha KyotoDSC_4762 If I ever return to Japan, I want to spend at least a week more exploring Kyoto. There’s so much to see and do, and yet I barely scratched the surface!

Thanks again for reading, and happy Thanksgiving!

How Large is Tokyo?

Via flickr

Via flickr

Just exactly how large is Tokyo?

A view from the 35th floor in a building near the Tokyo Sky Tree

The answer: mindbogglingly huge.

Whenever I try to explain how large Tokyo is, a lot of people have trouble imagining the vastness of a single city. They imagine other fairly dense cities like Boston or New York, where you can hop on a train or drive from edge to edge in just an hour (never mind traffic, of course!).

Via flickr

Tokyo, however, isn’t just a city. It’s the largest metropolis in the world.

A satellite view of Tokyo

A satellite view of Tokyo

By official counts, Tokyo is a mere 845 square miles and has a population of around 8.9 million people. However, if you consider the greater Tokyo Area, these numbers swell dramatically to an area of 5,200 square miles and a population of 40 million.

40. Million. People.

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Even when you live at the center of Tokyo, it’s sometimes hard to grasp that you’re living in one of the densest population areas in the world. The greater Tokyo area is only .036 of Japan’s total landmass, and yet accounts for 30% of Japan’s population (10% if you only count the 23 wards).

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Because 70% of Japan’s land is made of mountains and forest, a lot of people don’t appreciate how large and dense Tokyo actually is.

The picture below was taken from a helicopter and covers the greater Tokyo area- the 23 wards of Tokyo, areas west of Tokyo, and the surrounding prefectures Chiba and Saitama. (via Reddit)

The picture below was taken from a helicopter and covers the greater Tokyo area- the 23 wards of Tokyo, areas west of Tokyo, and the surrounding prefectures Chiba and Saitama. (via Reddit)

In comparison, this photo shows some of the major railways and landmarks of Tokyo. I went to school near the Tokyo Tower, and took the Yamanote line (green) for half of my commute. The Yamanote line is a circle around the center of Tokyo. Over 3.6 million people take the Yamanote line per day. In comparison, the busiest airport in the world (Atlanta International, USA) only services 240,000 people per day….that’s how many people in Tokyo use public transportation in a half hour. (via Reddit)

In comparison, this photo shows some of the major railways and landmarks of Tokyo. I went to school near the Tokyo Tower, and took the Yamanote line (green) for half of my commute. The Yamanote line is a circle around the center of Tokyo.
Over 3.6 million people take the Yamanote line per day. In comparison, the busiest airport in the world (Atlanta International, USA) only services 240,000 people per day….that’s how many people in Tokyo use public transportation in a half hour. (via Reddit)

 In Tokyo, it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. But if you do rise above the urban sprawl, it’s absolutely amazing. Being in Tokyo can make you feel ridiculously small and insignificant, but at the same time, it’s enchanting. You’re part of something so much larger than yourself.

via Flickr

via Flickr

Nara Prefecture

Although I spent most of my time abroad in Tokyo, I had the amazing opportunity to check out other famous cities and areas in the Kansai region of Japan. One of my favorite places to go was Nara, a small prefecture and city about 3 hours away from Tokyo by bullet train. Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784, and lends its name to the Nara period.

While the city itself isn’t much to look at, Nara is rich with history, particularly when it comes to temples. There are 8 temples, shrines, and ruins in Nara (known as the Nanto Shichi Dai-ji), which remained powerful even after the capital of Japan moved to Heian-kyo (modern Kyoto) in 794.

Nara Park Nara Japan

However, my favorite part about Nara was…the deer.

Sika Deer Nara Japan

Hi there!

Yes, that’s right. I said deer. According to local folklore, deer in Nara became sacred after one of the four gods of the Kasuga Shrine appeared on a nearby mountain riding a white deer. From then on, the deer were considered to be divine, and killing one was a capital offense punishable by death. Although the deer were stripped of their sacredness after World War II, they’re still considered National Treasures of Japan.

Sika Deer Nara Japan

Sika Deer Nara Japan

Whutcha doing?

Sika Deer Nara JapanToday, the miniature Shika deer can be found wandering around Nara Park and on some temple grounds. They’re extremely friendly and can be pet (although you might want to wash your hands afterwards).

Sika Deer Nara JapanSika Deer Nara Japan

You can also buy stacks of rice crackers from vendors along the road and feed the deer from your hands. Just be careful though- once the deer know you have food, they won’t leave you alone. I was stalked by a deer for a good 15 minutes, and when I wouldn’t keep feeding him, he head-butted me several times.

Sika Deer Nara Japan

This deer knows what’s up. He’s stalking one of the cracker vendors from behind.

Sika Deer Nara JapanSika Deer Nara Japan

Sika Deer Nara Japan

Here’s my stalker deer friend literally moments before he head-butted me. Notice the sheer terror in my face.
Don’t worry though, I survived.

The deer are also extremely intelligent and have been known to wait at stoplights before crossing the street. You can even bow to the deer, and some will even bow back! I had an elderly Japanese couple laugh at me when I tried this, but once I walked away, I saw them trying the same exact thing.

Sika Deer Nara JapanSika Deer Nara Japan

Like I mentioned earlier, Nara is home to several important temples and shrines in Japan. I visited Todai-ji, a large Buddhist temple complex. Todai-ji is known for its Great Buddha Hall (Daibutsuden), which was the largest wooden structure in the world until 1998.

Todai-ji Nara Japan TempleDSC_5086

Todai-ji also houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, which stands at almost 50 feet tall. The statue was completed in 752, has undergone several restorations and repairs since then.Todai-ji Nara Japan Temple

Todai-ji Nara Japan Temple

Guardian of the Great Buddha

Todai-ji Nara Japan Temple

At the Great Buddha Hall, visitors can see the many statues, purchase ema, and visit a small gift shop with deer paraphernalia.

Todai-ji Nara Japan Temple

Japanese ema (prayer plaques)

Todai-ji Nara Japan TempleNara may not be as exciting as downtown Tokyo, but it still has plenty to do. Check out ancient Japanese history, enjoy a relaxing day in the park, and pet some deer. Just make sure to bring some hand sanitizer, and plenty of money for rice crackers.

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I’m staying in the Kansai area for next weeks Travel Tuesday, so make sure to keep an eye out! Until then, thanks for reading and enjoy!

Ueno

Two weeks ago I took you to Asakusa, a traditional Japanese district in the northeast reaches of Tokyo. Today, I’m heading to Ueno, a nearby district that showcases some of Tokyo’s best points of interest.

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Ueno is home to a wide variety of activities and is a particularly appealing destination for tourists. This district is home to a huge park, ponds, a zoo, Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, a major concert hall, and many well-known museums, all within walking distance. Whether you’re looking for a nice nature walk or want to learn more about Japanese culture, Ueno definitely has something for everyone.

Walking in Ueno Park

Walking in Ueno Park

DSC_0550My favorite part about this district was Ueno Park, Japan’s first and most popular public park. Ueno Park surrounds Shinobazu Pond, a small body of water with extensive lotus beds and marshlands. As you walk along the shoreline, you can see many varieties of birds that have taken shelter in the marshlands, as well as carp, turtles, and other wildlife. Ueno Park is also home to a huge population of feral cats, who you can see slinking around under the trees.

Shinonazu Pond

Shinonazu Pond

Huge carp in the pond

Huge carp in the pond

One of the many feral cats that call Ueno home

One of the many feral cats that call Ueno home

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Check out how mossy these turtles are!

Check out how mossy these turtles are!

DSC_0579Although I didn’t get a chance to see them, Ueno also has over 800 sakura trees. From the end of March to early May, thousands of people flock to Ueno park for hanami (flower viewing) to see the beautiful cherry blossoms throughout the walking paths.

Thousands of people in Ueno for the flower viewing, or hanami

Thousands of people in Ueno for the flower viewing, or hanami

Vendors along the walking trails in Ueno offer a variety of street foods during hanami

Vendors along the walking trails in Ueno offer a variety of street foods during hanami

The park itself is also home to several Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, one of which sits on an island in the middle of the pond. At the temple, visitors cleanse themselves with water, purchase incense to burn, find out their fortunes, or even leave prayers behind in hope that they’ll be answered. I’ll cover some of these practices more in another post about religion, but until then, enjoy some of the pictures from that area.

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Before entering the temple grounds, guests purify their hands and mouth using water provided in a small fountain

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Visitors can purchase sticks of incense to burn while they pray.

Visitors can purchase sticks of incense to burn while they pray.

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Japanese ema (Shinto prayer plaues). Visitors purchase an ema and write a prayer on it, then hang them up at the shrine where the gods can receive them

Japanese ema (Shinto prayer plaques). Visitors purchase an ema and write a prayer on it, then hang them up at the shrine where the gods can receive them

DSC_0525If you’re in the mood for more nature, Ueno is also home to Japan’s oldest zoo, which opened in 1882. For around $6 visitors can see over 2500 animals and 450 species, including giant pandas, giraffes, hippos, tigers, elephants, and more. Ueno Zoo is definitely a popular spot for families, but I think that no one is ever too old to enjoy a zoo. I know I did.

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This monkey was not pleased to be photographed.

This monkey was not pleased to be photographed.

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This guy…

Ueno also showcases a dozen different museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Nature and Science, the National Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and the Shitamachi Museum. It’s a great place to visit to learn more about Japanese art, or even the history and culture of Tokyo.

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DSC_6571DSC_6164It’s easy to make a full day of travel out of Ueno’s attractions, but before you leave, make sure you try one of Ueno’s specialties: panda pan. It’s a great way to leave Ueno on a sweet note, especially after a full day of walking.

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What was your favorite part of Ueno? Thanks for reading, and let me know in the comments below!

Shibuya

Welcome to Shibuya, home of the famous Hachiko statue, Shibuya Crossing, amazing restaurants, shopping, and some of the best nightlife in Tokyo. There’s seriously something for everyone here, whether you’re looking to shop for the latest fashions or enjoy a night of drinking and karaoke with your friends.

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Shibuya is always alive with neon lights and bustling streets, no matter what time it is. It’s a huge fashion center and particularly popular with young people, which is probably why I found it so fascinating. I like to call Shibuya the New York City of Japan, and if you ever visit there on a Friday night, you’ll see why.

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 When I first got off at Shibuya Station, one of the busiest stations in Tokyo, I was immediately greeted with the mind-boggling sight of Shibuya Crossing. You’ve probably seen it in popular films and TV shows, including Lost in Translation.

Welcome to the madness that is Shibuya Crossing!

Welcome to the madness that is Shibuya Crossing!

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Shibuya Crossing is one of the busiest crosswalks in the world. Cars stop in all directions, allowing hundreds of people to scramble across the intersection. The entire area is surrounded by large TV screens, advertisements, flashing lights, and modern architecture, adding another layer to the experience. It’s absolutely stunning at night and completely overwhelming, and yet Shibuya Crossing made me feel like I was really in Japan for the first time.

If you don’t believe me about Shibuya Crossing, check out the massive crowds in the video above!

If you manage to make it through the crossing alive, Shibuya offers a huge variety of shopping, restaurants, bars, clubs, and nightlife. There are several well-known Japanese department stores in the area, including Shibuya 109, Parco, and Loft, which offer everything from high-end clothing to bento supplies.

Even in the rain, Shibuya is always alive

Even in the rain, Shibuya is always alive

Step in any street in Shibuya, and you'll find dozens of quirky shops and amazing restaurants

Step in any street in Shibuya, and you’ll find dozens of quirky shops and amazing restaurants

And if you’re feeling hungry, don’t worry! You can find everything from ramen shops and kaiten sushi to restaurants specializing in whale meat, Alice in Wonderland cafes, and even…Krispy Kreme. I can’t even get Krispy Kreme in America anymore, but it was delicious in Japan!

Behold the wonder that is Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Behold the wonder that is Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Shibuya is also a huge center for nightlife in Tokyo. As the sun goes down, thousands of people flock to the multitude of bars, karaoke centers, clubs, and even “love hotels” that this district offers. Because the last trains in Japan stop running around 12:30 am and don’t start again until 4:30 am, many young people dance or drink straight until dawn. I certainly had plenty of days where I came home during the sunrise, and I enjoyed every second of it.

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After all, no one ever remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep.

This salaryman certainly knows how to party. I found him sleeping at 3 am on the streets of Shibuya.

This salaryman certainly knows how to party. I found him sleeping at 3 am on the streets of Shibuya.

If you ever visit Tokyo, make sure you visit Shibuya at least during the day. Even if you aren’t under 30 (and I saw plenty of older salarymen out at night!), it’s still an amazing experience to see the crowds and check out what the youth of Japan are up to. Head over to the Starbucks across from the station, grab a table near the window, and watch Shibuya come to life.

(Featured photo via Gaijin Camera)

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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