Lying along the Sumida River, Asakusa 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. It is famous among tourists and locals alike for Sensoji, the most visited temple in Tokyo.
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.
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