Asakusa (浅草) is famous amongst tourists and locals alike for Senso-ji Temple and Nakamise, the shopping street which approaches the temple. Lying along the Sumida River, Asakusa is in the heart of Tokyo’s shitamachi. It is unfailingly found on any “Must See” or “Must Do” travel guide list, and deservedly so: Asakusa is rich in culture and one of the most important historical places in the capital.
History of Asakusa
The area actually owes its status as an entertainment district to nearby Kuramae. During the Edo period (1603-1868) Kuramae (which means “in front of the storehouses”) was, as its name suggests, a storage district for rice. This staple food was given as wages for officials of the shogunate, and middlemen (fudasashi) offered storage space for a small fee. These industrious individuals soon branched out from being mere rice keepers to exchanging the rice for money with the samurai and then selling it—at a healthy margin—to other local merchants. The proceeds were then lent out to others with interest. Through this process the fudasashi found themselves with a considerable amount of disposable income and those that were more than willing to help them spend it gathered over the years in Asakusa—kabuki theatres and geisha houses were aplenty.
Asakusa went into decline post war as it struggled to compete as an entertainment district with the other then up-and-coming areas of the city; however, a campaign led by the local merchants restored the area to its former glory and today it stands firmly as a top tourist attraction in Tokyo.
See also Taito City’s Map of Asakusa here (PDF download).