last update: January 02, 2021
Asakusa is a very famous neighborhood located in the special ward of Taito in the north of the city, crossed by the Sumida River. The main attraction in the area is the Sensoji Temple with all its surrounding area, where it feels like stepping back in time to old Tokyo, but there are many other attractions. Undoubtedly one of the most interesting areas of the city.
Things to do and things to see in Asakusa
"Old Tokyo" - Sensoji Temple area
You enter the area through the Kaminarimon
, a huge and very ancient gate of over 1000 years. Once you have passed the Kaminarimon, you will find a 250 meters long street in front of you with many shops on both sides. This is Nakamise Dori
, a magical place, where you can breathe an air of ancient Japan that will surely excite you. The little shops along the Nakamise Dori are a perfect place to buy souvenirs or to taste many typical snacks. At the end of the street you will find the Sensoji Temple
, with its entrance gate and its pagoda, in all its majesty. In the surroundings of Sensoji there are also the Dampoin Temple
and the Asakusa Shrine
. Before arriving at the temples and shrines, Nakamise Dori intersects with another street, Shin-Nakamise Dori
, a more modern-looking indoor shopping arcade, full of various shops and restaurants.
the Kaminarimon gate
(free admission, always open)
Sensoji Temple (浅草寺) is the most famous and popular Buddhist temple among tourists visiting Tokyo. It was founded in the year 645, and is the oldest in the city. However, all the buildings were destroyed during the war and are relatively recent reconstructions.
You arrive at the temple after passing the first Kaminarimon gate and the whole street full of shops called Nakamise Dori. At the end of this street there is a second front gate, the Hanzomon, beyond which there is a large open space with the main temple building and the beautiful five-story pagoda to its left.
(free admission, always open)
Asakusa Shrine is a Shinto shrine built in the year 1649 by Tokugawa Iemitsu. It is located a few tens of meters to the right of the main building of the Sensoji temple, and unlike this one it managed to survive the war.
view of Sensoji temple in the evening with no one around (credits)
Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center
(opening hours 09:00-22:00)
This tourist information center is housed in a modern building with a very distinctive architecture, which opened in 2012. The building has eight floors. Inside you will find a wifi hotspot and several information desks with staff who speak several languages. On the top floor there is also an interesting panoramic observatory from which to observe the Nakamise Dori and the Sensoji temple from a different point of view. If you want to do fun activities such as kimono dressing, geisha make-up, and other folkloric things, pass by this center and they will be able to advise you.
view of Nakamise Dori and Sensoji from the terrace of the Tourist Information Center
Hanayashiki amusement park
(admission 1000¥, 7-12 years old 500¥, opening hours 10:00-18:00)
The small Hanayashiki amusement park (浅草花やしき) is located just 1 minute from Sensoji temple and is the oldest amusement park in Japan. Opened in 1852 as a botanical garden, when the concept of amusement park didn't even exist, more and more attractions were added in the following decades. The various rides and attractions are mostly for children. Today you can still find the original roller coaster in operation inside, built in 1953. The atmosphere of the park is very nostalgic. The cost of each single attraction (100-200¥) must be added to the entrance fee. The entrance fee may seem excessive, but it has become necessary to avoid clogging the tight interior spaces with the masses of curious tourists around Asakusa.
the Hanayashiki amusement park from above, in the background the pagoda of the Sensoji Temple and the Tokyo Sky Tree
Sumida River area
The Sumida River
, one of Tokyo's most important rivers, flows just east of the Sensoji area. On both sides along the banks of the river extends a long park where you can relax or run, and in spring you can also see many cherry trees in bloom. From anywhere along the river you can't fail to notice the majestic Tokyo Sky Tree
and a very strange skyscraper in the shape of a beer mug, next to another building even stranger, with a sort of "golden poop" on the roof: it is the headquarters of Asahi beer
, one of the most famous Japanese beers.
Finally, from a riverside pier located a few steps from Tobu Asakusa station, you can take a cruise on Tokyo Bay and also get by boat to other areas of the city, including Odaiba, Toyosu and Hamamatsucho. More information about these cruises can be found on the companies' websites Tokyo Cruise
and Mizube Cruising
on the banks of the Sumida River
Asahi Beer headquarters
Near Asakusa, on the opposite bank of the Sumida River, there are the headquarters of the famous Japanese beer Asahi. There are two different buildings, and both of them immediately grab anyone's attention. The first is a 22-story skyscraper that is shaped like a mug of beer. The second is a lower black building (called Super Dry Hall), on the roof of which is a huge 360-ton golden sculpture, nicknamed Flamme d'Or. It seems that this represents the company's passion and dedication for beer production and was installed in 1989 to celebrate the company's centenary. At the same time, some people make fun of it and call it "golden poop". The Super Dry Hall can be visited and inside you will find various exhibits on the history of the company and some restaurants. The skyscraper next to it houses the company's offices. On the top floor, however, you will find a magnificent panoramic bar-restaurant, the Asahi Sky Room.
Other interesting areas
Kappabashi dori is a shopping street of about 1 km, with many shops next to each other selling catering items. Here you can buy crockery, furniture, signs, lanterns, uniforms, cooking utensils, various appliances, and popular wax reproductions of food. Going to Japan, in fact, you cannot fail to notice that almost all restaurants display wax reproductions of their dishes on the menu that look very real. These are called sampuru (サンプル, derived from the English "sample"). In recent years, more and more tourists have gone to the little shops of Kappabashi Dori to buy their wax reproduction of a plate of sushi or ramen to take home as a souvenir.
Bandai Namco headquarters
Near Asakusa, a few meters south of Asakusa station and of the area of Sensoji, you can find the headquarters of Bandai Namco, a famous Japanese company of toys and videogames. Do not confuse this place with the Bandai Museum, which is a different place and is located elsewhere. There is virtually nothing to do inside the building, which is not accessible except for the ground floor. Along the street outside the building you can see some giant statues of famous characters such as Doraemon, Ultraman and Kamen Rider (this street is sometimes called Bandai Character Street).
Bandai Character Street
Sleeping in Asakusa
Pros and cons
Asakusa is one of Tokyo's most distinctive neighborhoods. If you are a tourist on your first visit to Japan, you can sleep in an area that will arouse many emotions. In addition, Asakusa is full of hotels and the prices are not higher than other tourist areas of the city, often even lower. On the other hand, it must however be said that Asakusa is not among the most convenient starting points to visit the rest of the city. There are no JR stations nearby and you will often need to go to Ueno first before continuing on to other areas. Also, it is a fairly "dead" area in the evening, so if you plan to do a lot of nightlife and return after the last train time (around midnight), bear in mind that you may need a taxi.
Hotels with panoramic views
In Asakusa you can find some small ryokans where you can try the experience of sleeping in a room with tatami mats and futons. Keep in mind that Tokyo is not a place for ryokan, the few you find in Asakusa have been opened in recent times, with the increase in tourists from abroad. In particular we recommend:
In Asakusa there are also several low-cost hostels catered to foreign tourists and in particular very popular with backpackers. For example, if you are traveling alone and are looking for accommodation where you can easily make friends with other travelers, Asakusa is one of the best areas. Recommended hostels:
Eating in Asakusa
Street food along Nakamise Dori
There are many food stalls along Nakamise Dori that are sure to tempt your appetite and curiosity. The most popular are undoubtedly senbei
(rice crackers) and kibi-dango
(sweet rice flour dumplings with a soft and sticky texture). Among the more particular foods we also recommend age-manju
(sweets stuffed with bean paste and fried with tempura flour), ningyo yaki
(another sweet stuffed with sweet bean paste), and imo yokan
(sweet potato-based jelly).
Tempura is a world famous Japanese dish cooked by frying fish and vegetables in a particular batter. Traditionally it is accompanied by rice or soba. This dish was already popular during the Edo period (1603-1868) in Japan, and since then Asakusa has been filled with tempura restaurants. The top 5 restaurants according to youinjapan.net include Aoi Marushin
There is no well-defined historical reason, but Asakusa is also famous for eel restaurants and there are a lot of them in the area. Among the most famous, we recommend Irokawa
Asahi Sky Room
A bar located on the 22nd floor of the Asahi Super Dry Building, the skyscraper next to the building with the curious golden sculpture on its roof. From here you can enjoy a fantastic panoramic view. Beyond that, there is nothing else special. The bar serves different types of Asahi beer but nothing you can't find in other bars, and different snacks. The prices are very low compared to other Tokyo rooftop bars, and a beer costs 600-700¥. If you are in the area it is a great place for an aperitif or a drink with a view.
How to get to Asakusa
The Asakusa area is served by two subway lines, the Ginza line
(Tokyo Metro) and the Asakusa line
(Toei Metro), by the Tsukuba Express
railway line and the Tobu
railways. Each of these lines has its own station, separate from the others, and each of these stations is called "Asakusa". Many tourists get confused, wanting to take a certain line but going to the wrong station. Pay attention to the company of the line you want to take.
Tokyo Metro Ginza line
The Tokyo Metro station is the closest to the Sensoji temple area. In particular, follow the signs for exit n°1 and you will exit just a few meters from the Kaminarimon. This line is also the most used by tourists arriving from the most central areas of the city. The Ginza line takes you directly to Ueno (2 minutes) or Kanda (10 minutes), two important interchange stations with the JR lines.
Toei Metro Asakusa line
If you want to use this line, you have to walk 300 meters further south than the Tokyo Metro station. Less used by tourists. The precise location is on the map.
Tobu Asakusa station
The Tobu station is very easy to find, it is a large building on the surface that also houses the Matsuya
department store. This station is popular with tourists to reach the nearby Tokyo Sky Tree via the Tobu Sky Tree line
(3 minutes). It is often used as a departure station for those who want to go to Nikko
Tsukuba Express Asakusa
This underground station is located in a completely different area, about 500 meters west of the Tobu/Tokyo Metro stations (more precise location on the map). The Tsukuba Express is a suburban train that connects several stations in Tokyo with the town of Tsukuba. It can be useful to reach Akihabara without changes (5 minutes).
Getting to Asakusa on foot
You can easily walk to Asakusa from Ueno in about 20 minutes, always going straight along the same road. The Tokyo Sky Tree is even closer (15 minutes) and even easier to reach, just go to the tower perfectly visible from Asakusa.
Map of Asakusa, Tokyo
Guided tours, activities and other things to do
If you are planning a trip to Japan and you want to do something more than just visiting famous places and monuments, we suggest you to use Govoyagin
How to use Govoyagin
Govoyagin is a very useful website to enrich your travel experience
, especially if you are going solo or it's your first time in Japan.
Because of the language barrier (and more), in Japan it is very difficult to interact with the locals and to get off the tourist track.
Thanks to Govoyagin you can find a lot of interesting and sometimes unique guided tours and activities
all over Japan (and not only in Japan), that you would otherwise never be able to enjoy.
But there's more: on Govoyagin you can also buy tickets
for several famous attractions, events, transportation and other useful services for tourists. Last but not least, you can reserve a table
in hundreds of restaurants.
Take a look at Govoyagin
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