Tokyo is a big city with many layers to it. It’s impossible to try to reveal all the layers during a five-day stay, but I certainly tried my best. Asakusa falls under Eastern Tokyo in the Taito ward and it is separated from the more industrial Oshiage area, where you find the Tokyo Skytree, by the Sumida River. So what is there to see in this old entertainment district?
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First off, I did a lot of research on where to stay during my visit to Tokyo. Shibuya and Shinjuku immediately comes to mind. But being a budget traveler, I had to seek out some more affordable areas to stay and Asakusa suited my budget perfectly. My hostel was literally a few meters from the hugely popular Sensoji Temple and I found the narrow streets stuffed with all kinds of vendors to my liking.
Here’s a few things I did on a day in Asakusa:
The Kaminarimon and Sensoji Temple
This temple is what makes Asakusa a tourist spot. On any given day Nakamise Shopping street is pact with local and foreign tourists, visiting one of the biggest temples in Tokyo. This is a great place for souvenirs and trying local delicacies and street food. I had the best pork bun here ever, some dango covered in ground sesame seeds, a sakura (cherry blossom) fried mochi, macha ice cream etc.
The temple complex is big and there are a few structures to explore and a reasonable small garden.
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Shin-Nakamise street and the Rox complex
Nakamise Shopping street leading to the temple has many horizontal streets running from it and I found exploring these and discovering places to eat and shop a lot of fun. Some of the places are touristy but the further you get from the temple the cheaper and less touristy it becomes. You might eventually stumble onto a row of Izakayas in Hoppy Street.
I loved the atmosphere of this 80m street filled with Izakayas. The small tables and plastic crate benches fills up after five with young people and salarymen alike, enjoying delicious bar plates of snacks and the local ‘Hoppy’ cider drink. At first I felt a bit intimidated joining the locals but I jumped right in and had a great time and some great food.
Kappabashi Kitchen Town
Oh how I loved this place! Just a two blocks away from the temple complex, this old restaurant equipment area was one of my favourite places to explore. That is of course because I have an overwhelming craving to buy ceramics and pottery all the time, and this was just pure paradise. There’s also amazing Japanese knives to long after and for those not so interested in kitchen equipment, the plastic food samples are a laugh to look at, just because you know, you really actually thought that was a real piece of tempura prawn. Dengama is one of the names people mention for ceramics but don’t spend all you money there. Around the corner bigger and cheaper ceramic shops await spilling their goods onto the street.
Other: Donki Asakusa
Don Quixote (Donki) is an all goods store selling at the cheap. It is open 24h and a great place to find good deals on many things. Donki Asakusa was one of the best ones I visited during my trip to Japan.
Other: Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Building
This modern building sits right across the entrance to Sensoji Temple and Nakamise Shopping street. It’s a good place for information with free wifi and a cafe. The best thing about it is probably the observation deck on the 8th floor that provides great views of the area.
Other: Asakusa Gate Hotel
This hotel offers a splendid view of the Sensoji Temple complex from the 13th floor bistro and bar. Drinks are expensive but worth it. Unfortunately, these days it seems like everyone has discovered this spot and you’ll struggle to get a reservation.
Asakusa and beyond
Strolling along the Sumida River and Sumida River Park with an iced Starbucks Matcha Frappucino is a good way to end a day of sightseeing. There are many restaurants along the river too.
Across the river the golden signs of the Asahi Beer Hall calls all those interested and of course you could also make your way towards the Tokyo Skytree or take a river cruise.
If you haven’t filled up on street food or bar snacks, there are many eateries in the area and I realised only later, cheaper than most in Tokyo. I had delicious ramen at Ippudo’s Asakusa store and the best kaiten sushi at Sushi Nova. I also had a tempura set meal at a tempura place (don’t know the name) which was amazing.
What I did:
Because I stayed in the area, I took half a day to explore Asakusa only and combined it with a trip to Akihabara for the day. I continued to stroll around and eat in the evenings while staying there.
Asakusa is connected with Narita Airport, Asakusa Toei Subway, Asakusa Subway and very conveniently with the Ginza Subway line. I had no problems getting around at all.
Where I stayed:
One of the many Khaosan Hostels in the Area, Khaosan Laboratory.
Recommended: Yes (I was a solo Female traveler and stayed in a four-bed female dorm with bathroom).
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