Replete with attractions, Asakusa is undoubtedly one of Tokyo’s leading districts. Here, you will find everything in one thrilling time wrap. It is where you get to experience the capital city of old. Coming to the district, it is difficult to miss the grandeur of old Sensoji temple and the post-war aesthetics. But the oldness looming in the spirit of Tokyo’s uptown is not just the reason why you should plan your next visit to this district. Below, we list the best things to do in Asakusa, Tokyo.
Have a perfect first-stop at Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center
When in Asakusa, it is next to impossible to miss the eye-catching Asakusa Culture and Tourist Information Center. Situated across the street from Sesoji’s temple’s Kaminarimon gate, it is a great way to get a free view of the district. We recommend visiting not only for the free guided tours and currency exchange but also for its observation deck. This eight-storey construction offers the best views of Sensoji. This additionally saves much jostling and scrambling through the crowds. The Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center also hosts exhibitions and cultural events, so make sure to check them out. If you are running short of phone battery, make a beeline on to the second floor- the street-facing counter comes equipped with electrical charging ports.
Hire a rickshaw ride to see around
You will not have trouble finding transportation options while in Tokyo. With its enormous network, all bases are covered. If you are seeking an experience to be remembered, we highly recommend taking a rickshaw ride. With picturesque sights, welcoming guides, and an unusual approach to transportation, it will absolutely make for a matchless experience. That could be why the sight of rickshaws dashing through the streets is a common sight when in Asakusa. This man-powered carriage is designed such that it can accommodate close to two people. To top it all, taking a ride is uncomplicated as it gets. You can walk up to the driver and ask to be toured around. The biggest plus to the rickshaw tour is that advance booking is not necessary. However, if you are scheduling long rides, it is best to make a reservation. Few companies even have customizable options wherein you will be picked up.
Have a spot of purification outside the Sensoji
Before entering the famed Sensoji, one cannot but notice the enormous smoking pot. You will be enveloped by a blazing cloud of smoke from a massive earthenware called Jokoro. The smoke rising from this is incense burner is believed to possess a curative effect. You can purchase your own incense and fan the smoke to parts of you that wants healing. However, this is not all. A dragon-themed fountain stands towards the lower, right corner of the steps. As with most temples, the water from this is believed to spiritually cleanse you. It is customary to wash your hands and your mouth with the revered water.
Have your picture taken from the Thunder Gate
As the main entrance to Sensoji temple, this dramatic foyer is emblematic to Asakusa. This imposing structure with its staggering dimensions is popularly hailed as the “gate of the wind god and thunder god.” The Kaminarimon Gate is conceivably most celebrated for its enormous red lantern, rendering it one of the district’s buzzing tourist hotspot. Beside the lantern are two impressive statues- the wind god and thunder god. These benevolent deities are believed to guard the temple from hostile natural forces. The lantern is unmistakable for its grandeur and the tantalizing dragon carvings embellishing its base are not to be missed
The gate is free to visit and is accessible at all hours. But be warned, taking a picture from the thunder gate could be quite a trying task owing to the large crowds. So we highly suggest coming here past evening when the place is devoid of much throng. In addition, at this time, the neighbouring quarters are illuminated and would add to the appeal.
Pay your respects at Sensoji
Being the oldest Buddhist temple in the capital, it is only possible that Sensoji is the most celebrated and photographed of Tokyo's temples. Dedicated to Kannon- the Buddhist goddess of mercy, this five-storey pagoda is bound to transport you to the bygone days that are sodden in history. The rich strings of incense and vast overhanging is reminiscent of the legacy that will never go unnoticed. The main entrance of Sensoji has transcended into an allegorical symbol of Asakusa. Beyond the gate, the main hall and pagoda stand in its glory. Although wrecked in war, the building has been relatively preserved of its splendour. All through the year, the temple becomes the ground where popular seasonal events are held. The most prominent among them are hozuki market( in July) and hagoita market( in December). The admission to the temple ground is completely free of cost and can be accessed from 6 am to 5 pm.
Go shopping at Nakamise-Dori
As one of the oldest shopping arcades in Japan, Nakamise-Dori is one of Asakusa’s most iconic shopping streets. Starting right behind Sensoji’s epochal Kaminarimon, this street is effortless to locate. When here, get ready to feel old-school quintessence of irresistible crafts, souvenirs and flatteringly delicious savouries. This shopping street has about ninety stalls that sell everything from samurai swords to sembei crackers (which is a local favourite sweet). Nakamise-Dori also marks the place where you get the best street food. From ningyo yaki(sponge cakes that are shaped into Asakusa renowned landmarks) to juicy fried meat croquettes, this place has it all.
Have a Kodak moment at Tokyo Skytree
A recent addition to the city’s skyline, it goes without saying that while in Asakusa, you ought to have photographed yourself near Tokyo Skytree. Because there is only a lot you can do while at Japan’s tallest tower. Depending on the nature of the shot you want, there are a lot of places you can capture that perfect Kodak moment. Soaring over a massive 634 metre, this impressive structure provides a faultless panoramic view of the whole of Kanto. Getting here is not much of a task considering Tokyo Skytree Station is within reach from Tobu Skytree Line. Ever since its inception, it has become a symbol of Tokyo. Currently, only two observation decks of it are open to the public- at heights of 350 and 450 metres. Standing on the glass floor section is a matchless experience itself- it makes you feel as if you are hovering in mid-air.
Pray at Asakusa Shrine
As Sensoji’s neighbour, Asakusa Shrine has its own story to tell. This shrine is emblematic of the county’s native religion and imported Buddhism. While it may be difficult to cognize at first, having these two structures adjacent to each other is very syncretic. Following a lofty torii shrine gate and a long throughway you get to see the shrine where the two brothers who found Sensoji are enshrined. Most visitors come to this shrine for its tranquillity and to have blessings that relate to safe travel, familial happiness and general prosperity. Additionally, you can purchase out-of-the-way omamori charms that are symbolic of hope. The shrine’s festival, the Sanja Matsuri, is a glorious display that is conducted every year on a weekend in May.
Set out to improve your luck with Shichifukujin Pilgrimage
It is believed that whoever undertakes the Shichifukujin pilgrimage will be bestowed with abundant blessings. This trip involves visiting shrines where the Seven Lucky Gods(the deities being Daikokuten, Ebisu, Bishamonten, Fukurokuju, Hotei, Jurojin, and Benzaiten) are enshrined. It is difficult to find a shrine where they are apotheosized together; so the only way is to take on a binge visit to the many places where they are idolized. Doing so will bring you prosperity in the varied aspects of your life.
Go on a souvenir spree
Your visit to Asakusa will not be complete without shopping for souvenirs. You will be struck by hundreds of stores that sell everything from postcards to green tea snacks. Authentic Japanese handicrafts are much in demand at the local markets. That being said, finding the right place wherein you can purchase what you’re looking for, could be quite a daunting task. The most popular ones where you can get-it-all are Nakamise Dori, EKIMISE, Don Quijote and Rox.
Experience the Retro slice of Tokyo at Asakusa's Underground Shopping Center
If you want to experience the quintessence of Japan life before the war, then you might want to head to Asakusa's Underground Shopping Center. Although easily accessible from EKIMISE, the popularity of this shopping centre remains understated. Despite opening as early as 1955, little is known about its presence even to the Japanese. You will find here many exceptional shops that offer reasonable prices.
Have your fortune told at Omikuji station
Although it is not exactly free of cost, it sure is inexpensive. Omikuji are strips of paper that are believed to foretell your future. For trying out your luck, at the Omikuji station at Sensoji Temple, you have donate a sum of 100 yen in the box kept for the purpose. You can then draw a stick wherein you get to see the slip that corresponds to your future. You take home the “good fortune”. However, if you get a “bad fortune,” make sure to tie it on a nearby tree or pole to ensure it does not follow you home.
Have a relaxing picnic at Sumida Park
The beauty of Sumida Park requires no introduction. What better way to appreciate the charm of it than having a nice stroll at the park. The commanding views of it still at large remains untapped by most of the tourists. So while in Asakusa, have your evening spent taking a short picnic to the park. It is certainly an amazing spot to soak up the sun while understanding the local culture and aesthetics.
Go sample testing at Masakusa
If you end up feeling starved and famished after your Asakusa tour, Masakusa offers great choices when it comes to snatching delicious snacks. This fancy department store is known to be an interesting place which permits visitors to try out their food samples. They are particularly famous for their Japanese confectionery which they prepare with a local twist.
Learn Japanese Cooking at Local Classes
What better way to heighten your Asakusa experience than attending a cooking workshop! For a fun and relaxed way to explore traditional cuisine, it does not get better than a cooking class. It would be worth every penny spent considering you get to learn how to prepare classic Japanese cuisines from residents themselves. Air Kitchen normally offers classes wherein beginner recipes are provided to prepare sushi, rice balls, ramen and even some of the time-honoured sweets. Many support classes even have provisions that prop up vegan, gluten-free, and even Halal dietary requirements. Most instructors are well versed in English, so the language barrier is minimized. So when in Asakusa, browse these lively and fun cooking classes to append an exhaustive and appetizing activity to your itinerary.
Eat a platter of appetizing vegan fare from Farm Café
It is just not for its picturesque interiors that Farm Cafe is branded for. This quaint cafe is a stone’s throw from Sensoji Temple and has to be tried for its wholly plant-based dishes. It is a great spot if you are looking for gaudy whole-grain meals. You will not find anything that lacks flavour despite the platter being entirely nutritious. This very wholesome approach is what sets this café stand out from the rest of its kind. Decidedly, the Farm Cafe is apposite for small parties. However, if you are visiting in large groups, it is best if you come past the rush hours. When here, we highly suggest you try out their tempura and fried soy meat. The soy meat rice bowl that comes topped with delectably fresh salad is to die for.
Have a mouthful of authentic rice balls from Onigiri Asakusa Yadoroku
If you want to experience the delectableness of a traditional onigiri (rice balls), then waste no time and take a turn to Onigiri Asakusa Yadoroku. This restaurant situated to the north of Sensoji is known to serve exemplary lunchtime fares. As an honour to its excellence, it has appeared in the Michelin Guide for Tokyo in 2019 and 2020. Despite its small size, this place lures quite a crowd. The popularity could be quite a deterrent to effortless dining. You have to try arriving as early as possible as the restaurant closes as soon as the ingredients for the day run out.