Lying along the Sumida River, Asakusa (浅草) is in the heart of Tokyo’s shitamachi. It is unfailingly on any travel guide list, and deservedly so: Asakusa is rich in culture and one of the capital’s most important historical places.

Rickshaws line up near Kaminarimon ready to give tourists a tour of the area.

The many Japanese and tourists that flock here come to see Sensoji, the most visited temple in Tokyo and one of the most important in the country. The walk to the temple Kaminarimon, Nakamise, and Hozomon Gate is as enjoyable as the famous temple and always put down as a “must see” in any guide book to the city.

A performer during the annual Oiran Dochu parade.

The area is what’s known as shitamachi (“downtown” or “low city”)—a whole new side to the city compared with the neon lights of Shinjuku and Shibuya. Once you’re done with the temples and shrines, take a few hours to wander the side streets, with a stop at a tempura restaurant to re-fuel (the area is famous for its tempura).

About a 15-minute walk to the west you have the lesser-known shopping street of Kappabashi—the best place if you’ve come in search of Japanese ceramics and cooking utensils. And about the same distance to the east you have Tokyo Skytree Town, with the eponymous tower looming over the wider area.

The History of Asakusa

Asakusa actually owes much of its growth 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 used as payment for the samurai, 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 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.

Nakamise in the 1930s
Information
Location
Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo
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Key Attractions

Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center

An excellent tourist information center for the Asakusa area. The top floor is also an observation deck which provides superb views of Nakamise and Sensoji Temple. On the ground floor near the information desk you can also find all of Taito Ward excellent tourist maps for Asakusa and other areas of the ward such as Ueno and Yanaka.
9:00-20:00

Asakusa Engei Hall

Asakusa Engei Hall is famous for rakugo (“fallen words”), a comical form of one-man storytelling through a dialogue of two characters. While the cultural references involved in the storytelling mean that near-native Japanese language skills are a must, Engei Hall does offer other performances that tourists can enjoy (e.g. magic shows).

Asakusa Shrine

One of the most important Shinto shrines in the country. Asakusa Shrine stands in the east of Sensoji Temple and was built in honor of the three men who founded the famous temple. The Sanja Matsuri, one of Tokyo’s three major festivals, is held in May each year to celebrates these three men.

Hozomon Gate

Magnificent inner entrance to Sensoji at south end of the Nakamise shopping street. The original gate was built in 942 but was destroyed by fire in 1631 and then again in 1945 in the Tokyo air raids, having stood for over 300 years. The structure you see today was built in 1964. The statues either side of the gate’s southern face are guardians of the Buddha.

Kaminarimon

Kaminarimon (“Thunder Gate”) is the protector of Sensoji Temple. Fujin, the god of wind, and Raijin, the god of thunder, are enshrined on the east and west side of the gate, respectively. Pass under the gate and make your way up Nakamise. As you do, be sure to look up to see the wooden carving under the large red lantern.

Don Quijote

24/7 popular bazaar-style store that sells just about anything and everything. There are also cheap restaurants on the 5th floor and Amuse Cafe & Theatre on the 7th floor which offers show and dance performances.
Open 24/7

Gallery éf

Well regarded and unusual art gallery near Asakusa housed inside a beautiful old Edo warehouse which has managed to survive fires, air raids, and earthquakes. The gallery markets itself as a cafe/bar space and a place for cultural exchanges, and many of the works of art are themed around the historic area.
Gallery 12:00-19:00. Bar 18:00-24:00
Free

Hanayashiki Amusement Park

Amusement park that has been entertaining visitors since 1872. Today it has about 20 rides and attractions (including a “Ninja Challenge”), but for adults the appeal is nostalgic, as the amusement park seems stuck in another era.
10:00-18:00
Admission fee is ¥1,000 with discounts for children under 12. Ride tickets are ¥100 each.

Hoppy Street

A popular night street in Asakusa. The izakaya and yakitori restaurants on either side of the road extend themselves in the evening with plastic tables and chair, making for a lively and enjoyable atmosphere.

Nakamise

A 250-meter long street that leads up to Sensoji Temple lined either side with stalls selling anything from Japanese sweets to Japanese swords and paper umbrellas. Nakamise is more than just a tourist trap—it is actually one of the oldest shopping streets in Japan.

Sensoji Temple

The centerpiece of the Asakusa area with origins dating back to 628 CE when two brothers found a statue resembling the Buddhist deity of mercy at the bottom of the Sumida River. The statue is said to be enshrined in the main temple building.
The temple is open 6:30-17:00 but you can enter the grounds at any time
Events & Festivals in the Area

Asakusa Samba Carnival

Late Sep 2021
Held annually since 1981, the Asakusa Samba Carnival is one of the biggest events on the Tokyo calendar,…

White Heron Dance in Asakusa

Nov 3 / 11:00 AM3:00 PM
The White Heron Dance (白鷺の舞) has roots in a scroll which depicted scenes of a parade praying for…

Asakusa Tori no Ichi I

Early Nov 2021
Open-air market held on the day of the tori (rooster) during November—a tradition that has continued since the…

Asakusa Tori no Ichi II

Late Nov 2021
Open-air market held on the day of the tori (rooster) during November—a tradition that has continued since the…

Sensoji Setsubun Bean Tossing

Early Feb 2022
Traditionally setsubun (節分) marks the day before the beginning of a new season, but in post-Edo times the…

Golden Dragon Dance in Asakusa

Mar 18, 2022 / 11:00 AM4:00 PM
The Golden Dragon Dance celebrates the re-construction of the main hall of Sensoji in 1958 after it was…

Sumida Park Cherry Blossom Festival

Mar 18, 2022Apr 4, 2022
Over 600 cherry trees blossom in Sumida Park towards the end of March. The riverside park is one…

Hana Matsuri

Early Apr 2022
This event at Sensoji Temple celebrates the Buddha’s birthday on 8 April and is more formally called Bussho-e…

Oiran Dochu

Early Apr 2022
Oiran (花魁) is a word used to refer to the high-class prostitutes that worked in the Yoshiwara red-light…

White Heron Dance in Asakusa

Apr 10, 2022 / 11:00 AM3:00 PM
The White Heron Dance (白鷺の舞) has roots in a scroll which depicted scenes of a parade praying for…

Asakusa Yabusame Archery

Mid Apr 2022
Yabusame (horseback archery) has its roots in the Kamakura period when samurai used the competition to improve their skills…

Nakizumo Crying Baby Festival

Late Apr 2022
The Crying Sumo Festival (泣き相撲) is undoubtedly one of Tokyo’s more unusual events—and one which has attracted the…

Sanja Matsuri

Mid May 2022
Held annually on the third weekend of May, Sanja Matsuri is probably Tokyo’s biggest festival. It celebrates the…

Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri

Early Jul 2022
Tanabata (七夕) has origins in a Chinese festival of old and is celebrated not just in Japan, but…

Asakusa Hozuki Ichi

Early Jul 2022
The Hozuki Ichi (ほおずき市, hōzuki-ichi) is a summer tradition that has been held since the Edo period on…
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