Asakusa is one of Tokyo's major sightseeing areas.
Asakusa has a large number of theaters, cinemas, amusement arcades, pachinko parlors, bars and restaurants, which attract both Tokyoites and people commuting in to the capital on the Tobu Isesaki Line from Gunma, Saitama and Tochigi Prefectures.
Asakusa's chief draw is Sensoji Temple (popularly known as Asakusa Kannon Temple), which is the headquarters of the Sho-Kannon sect and is reputedly one of Tokyo's oldest temples, having been founded in 628.
The temple is approached from Kaminari Gate, with its huge red paper lantern.
The shopping street leading to the temple, Nakamise dori, is lined with souvenir and Edo-style craft shops. The vast Kannondo (Main Hall) first built in 1651, was destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in 1958. The hall is said to hold a golden image of the Goddess of Mercy (kannon) discovered by three fishermen in the 7th century. In front of the temple is a large cauldron of incense, smoke from which is believed to bestow good health.
To the left is a five-storey, 48m high pagoda (rebuilt in 1973) and modeled after a similar structure at Daigoji Temple in Kyoto. Near the pagoda is Dembo-in - a picturesque tea garden built in the 17th century by noted landscape gardener, Enshu Kobori. Although closed to the public, it may be possible to arrange a viewing by calling in advance at the temple's main office.
To the right of the temple is the Asakusa Shrine, which miraclously escaped war-time bombs. The shrine was built on the orders of the third shogun Iemitsu in memory of the three fishermen and is the home shrine of the Sanja Matsuri held in May and Tokyo's biggest and loudest festival.
Other places of interest in the area are the Hanayashiki Amusement Park, the Rock-za strip show, the Asakusa Kannon Onsen - a traditional shitamachi bath-house or sento - just north of the pagoda and the Drum Museum, which is on the fourth floor of Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten - an historic shop that sells traditional Japanese instruments and all you would ever need for a Japanese festival: mikoshi (portable shrines), happi coats, flutes and masks.
Further west from the Drum Museum is Kappabashi-dogu-gai, which among a cornucopia of Japanese kitchenware also sells plastic food replicas of the same type you see outside Japanese restaurants.
Asakusa can be reached on the Ginza and Toei Asakusa Subway Lines as well as the Tobu Isesaki Line, but a more leisurely approach is to take a cruise on the Sumida River.
Visitors can take the water bus from Hamarikyu-teien and Hinode Pier and dock at the Azuma Bridge in Asakusa across the river from Philippe Starck's Asahi Building with its famous golden flame (or turd) on the roof.
Asakusa is busy all day, every day so to beat the crowds it may be best to come at night as the temples are illuminated, though the shops are closed. An historic place for a drink is Kamiya Bar, possibly Tokyo's oldest pub, the 3 storey bar is located just outside exit 3 of the Ginza Subway Line. There are plenty of other alternatives to eat and drink in the area in the side streets radiating off the temple grounds.
Hotel Sky Court Asakusa
Japan Tokyo Asakusa
Sensoji Drum Museum Temple Sumida Japan blog
Monday, October 09, 2006