* [[Kinugawa]] — a hot spring resort fallen on hard times
* [[Kinugawa]] — a hot spring resort fallen on hard times
* [[Nikko]] — with its national parks and opulent shrines
* [[Nikko]] — with its national parks and opulent shrines
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Revision as of 12:53, 31 March 2013
Asakusa (浅草) is a part of Tokyo's downtown Taito district best known for its many temples, particularly Sensōji.
Asakusa is the terminus of the Metro Ginza line (G19), which is the best way to get into the area, perhaps by connecting from the Yamanote line at Ueno. Other options are to take the eponymous Toei Asakusa line(A18), which carves a path through eastern and southern Tokyo, or by taking the Toei Oedo Line to the Kuramae Station(E11), or by using the Tobu-Isesaki Line.
Cab Station Ltd's Super Shuttle bus service runs four daily round-trips between Narita Airport and Asakusa for ¥1000. Buses pick up/discharge near the Toei Asakusa subway and the Tsukuba Express line.
Cruises down the Sumidagawa river depart from a wharf only 5-minute walk from the temple, by the Azuma-bashi bridge. There are a number of boat routes available, so have a look at the map and then decide which one to pick.
Sensōji (浅草寺), also known as Asakusa Kannon, is Tokyo's largest Buddhist temple and a major attraction for Japanese and foreigners alike. Take the Asakusa exit of the subway and follow the crowds.
- Up first is the Kaminarimon (雷門) or "Thunder Gate", featuring a much-photographed giant lantern and statues of guardian gods Raijin (god of thunder) and Fujin (god of wind). First built in 942, the gate has been destroyed numerous times and the current incarnation dates to only 1950. The Nakamise shopping arcade leading up to the temple starts after the gate (see Buy).
- At the end of the arcade is the main gate Hōzōmon (宝蔵門), notable for a giant straw sandal (waraji) hung up on one side. This gate too is guarded by ferocious guardian gods.
- The perennially busy Kannondō (観音堂, Kannon Hall) is behind the gate, with a steady stream of worshippers wafting incense over themselves and trooping up the steps to pray and donate. According to legend, the hall was originally built in 628 to house a statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, fished out of the Sumida River by two brothers.
- To the west is the Gojūnoto (五重塔, 5-Story Pagoda), reputedly containing some of the ashes of the Buddha.
Other temples and shrines
- Asakusa Jinja (浅草神社). To the east behind the temple is this Shinto shrine devoted to protecting the Buddhist temple in a typically Japanese arrangement. The fairly plain shrine is not much to look at, but is notable as the focal point of the Sanja Matsuri festival (see Do).
- Chingodo Shrine. If you turn left before the Hozomon gate and head west for a few hundred meters, this quiet shrine is on your left. The shrine is dedicated to the Japanese raccoon god tanuki, notably primarily for its big flask of sake and gigantic testicles (at least when depicted as a statue).
- Denpoin Temple (伝法院). Further down to the west, this temple has a beautiful private garden not generally accessible to the public, but you might get lucky if you ask.
- Sanja Matsuri (三社祭). Organized at Asakusa Jinja yearly on the third weekend in May, this is Tokyo's largest festival (matsuri) and attracts up to 2 million spectators. The main event is a procession known as Daigyoretsu, when traditional performers and musicians parade through the streets, while on the next two days portable shrines (mikoshi) are carried to and from the temple for purification.
- Asakusa Samba Carnival. Held on the last Saturday of August. The street parade, which features thousands of participants from all over Japan, is held in the afternoon around Sensoji, and there are some stage shows in the evening. The event started in 1981, it's the biggest party of the year for the many Japanese-Brazilian residents of Tokyo.
- Hanayashiki (花やしき), . Next to the Sensoji temple grounds is this small and somewhat lackluster carnival complex with rides, booths, and games. The neighborhood theatre specializes in showing classic Japanese films, as many of the tourists are elderly Japanese.
The busy shopping street leading from the Kaminarimon gate to the temple is the covered Nakamise (仲見世)  arcade, selling all sorts of Buddhist paraphernalia as well as assorted tourist kitsch. This is one of the best places in Tokyo to buy souvenirs (the other being the Oriental Bazaar in Omotesando), but note more expensive items such as swords and kimonos are likely to be of inferior quality. Slightly nicer crafts, rather than mass-produced kitsch, can be found at good prices if you walk up to the temple, turn right, and turn right again on the first small street running parallel to Nakamise. You will see plenty of small shops in this general area which have better quality souvenirs and gifts, like handkerchiefs, strings of hand-made silk balls, hairclips, etc.
A more offbeat shopping option is Kappabashi-dori (かっぱ橋), best reached from Tawaramachi station on the Ginza line. This is Tokyo's restaurant wholesale district, which sells plastic food, metal spatulas, deep fryers and an immense variety of affordable crockery. Some shops sell only in wholesale quantities, but many are happy to sell single items and factory-made Japanese pottery (which to the casual eye is indistinguishable from the handmade kind) can sell for as little as ¥100 a piece. Another bargain is high-quality Japanese kitchen knives, which are generally much cheaper in Japan. Note that most stores here are closed on Sundays.
- Denkama (田窯), at the corner of Kappabashi-dori and Asakusa-dori. A particularly good boutique specializing in handmade Japanese pottery. The discount racks outside are downright cheap at several hundred yen a pop, but more expensive items on the second floor may run into tens of thousands of yen.
Asakusabashi (浅草橋), two stops south on the Toei Asakusa Line, is a wholesale district which these days is known for its shops specializing in bead craft supplies. There are also many stores selling traditional Japanese festival and party supplies.
- Kiwa Seisakusho (貴和製作所), Asakusabashi 2-1-10, . 9:30AM-6:30PM daily except Sunday. No less than 5 floors of plastic baubles of all shapes and sizes. Three shops in Asakusabashi alone, the largest near exits A4 and A2 of the metro.
Asakusa is famous for its senbei rice crackers, grilled on the spot, flavored with soy and usually wrapped in seaweed. There are many competing shops in the Nakamise arcade, and packages of senbei are a very popular souvenir among the Japanese as well. Kaminari okoshi, a sweet snack made of rice, peanuts, and syrup, originated from food stalls near Kaminarimon in the Edo period. Asakusa is also famous for its tempura, fried prawns and vegetables. You can find many tempura restaurants (high and low budget) in the streets near Nakamise doori.
- Nishiyama Sweets (甘味処 西山), Kaminarimon 2-19-10 (Just off the main intersection, towards Kaminarimon), ☎ +81 03 5830-3145, . Closed Wed. After an exhausting day visiting the temples, grab some hot steamed dumplings outside, or step inside for traditional desserts such as oshiruko (grilled rice cake in a sweet-bean porridge) or cream an-mitsu (gelatin cubes in molasses with candied fruit and ice cream). This very simple shop serving tea and sweets has been in business since 1852.
- Sansada (三定), Asakusa 1－２－２ (Jus right of Kaminarimon), ☎ +81 03 3841-3400, . Open at 11:30AM. Over 150 years of history. Try their tempura and soba set! Or the fresh deep fried flour/batter at the front of the restaurant. You can smell them from a mile away, because they use sesame oil.(Be prepared, because there is no English menu, and no one speaks English)
- Aoi-Marushin (葵丸進), 1-4-4 Asakusa, ☎ +81 03 3841-0110, . Good tempura in a convenient location, with fifty years of history behind it.
- Daikokuya (大黒家), 1-38-10 Asakusa, ☎ +81 03 3844-1111. Arguably Tokyo's most famous tempura restaurant, with a history of more than 100 years. Be prepared for extremely long queues during meal times. An English menu is available on request.
- Maguro Bito. Get there early or late to enjoy the best revolving sushi in Tokyo. Ask for recomendations from the chefs to enjoy interesting items that, although you have likely never even heard of, are savory. All in all, if you like revolving sushi (kaiten sushi) then you must visit this location. Meals ¥2000-5000, draft beer ¥500.
Asakusa's local specialty drink is Denki Bran, a stiff brandy-based cocktail which originated at the Kamiya Bar but can be ordered at most drinking establishments in the area.
- Kamiya Bar (神谷バー), Asakusa 1-1-1 (right on the corner at the main intersection), ☎ (03)3841-5400, . 11:30AM-10PM. The home of the Denki Bran cocktail; first opened in 1880 and a truly local institution. The ground floor is a large beer-hall-like bar, the second is a western-style restaurant, and the upper floor serves Japanese food. Find a seat at one of the shared tables, buy your tickets at the counter, and join in the fun.
- Bar Sandglass, Asakusa, Kaminarimon 1-16-2 (1 minute walk north of Tawaramachi metro station, turn right after the Jonathan's restaurant.). If stuck in Asakusa at drinking time, Bar Sandglass is a good place to stop. This stylish, diminutive (max. 10 people - don't bring a crowd) bar is tucked away in the back streets of Asakusa. For a drink with the friendly locals any night of the week, this is the place to come; no Japanese ability necessary.
- Asakusa Naniwaya, Asakusa 2-12-4, . AM10:00-PM7:00. Asakusa Naniwaya branch the original of Taiyaki Naniwaya Sohonten( Azabu Jyu-ban).The cafe in the shop, you can enjoy the Green tea and coffee with all handmade Japanese sweets.
- Cigars & Cafe LWAN, Matsugaya 1-11-3 (Near Tawaramachi on the Ginza Line), ☎ +81 03 6426-2170, . Tu-Fr 1PM-9PM, Sa Su noon-8PM, national holidays noon-8PM. A cigar bar that serves coffee, alcoholic drinks, and desserts. There is a large cigar selection, in particular from the Dominican Republic. (35.71207,139.787821)
Asakusa is a popular accommodation choice for budget travelers and there are many cheap ryokan catering to foreigners in the area. For even cheaper (but less convenient) options, see the Taito district article.
- Asakusa Riverside Capsule Hotel, 2-20-4, Kaminarimon, ☎ +81 03 3844-5117, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 10AM. Cheap and simple capsule hotel. Very accessible. Capsules for women too. Male baths overlook the Sumida River. ¥3000.
- Asakusa Vista Hotel, 2-2-9, Kotobuki, Taitoku (1-minute walk from Tawaramachi on the Ginza Line), ☎ +81 03 3842-8421, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11:00a.m.. Great location. ¥5000.
- Khaosan Tokyo Guesthouse, ☎ +81 03 5856-6560, . This group of guest houses has 3 different hostels within 5 minutes of Asakusa station. They also run a traveler's bar and you get 1 free drink when you stay. There are dormitories as well as private rooms available. ¥2000.
- Retrometro Backpackers, 2-19-1 Nishiasakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan (3 minute walk from Tawaramachi Station, Nishi Asakusa 2), ☎ 03-6322-7447, . checkin: 3PM; checkout: 10AM. Opened up on March 2012, a great little hostel, very welcoming and great design, can only sleep around 20 people but a very active and friendly space, easy to meet people. Price is very good aswell as location, easy access to tourist areas and subway stations. Staff are very curtious and will help you with your visit to Tokyo. ¥2600.
- Sakura Hostel Asakusa (サクラホステル浅草), 2-24-2 Asakusa (About 6 minutes from Tsukuba Express train station.), ☎ +81 03 3847-8111 (email@example.com), . checkin: 1 PM; checkout: 11 AM. The largest hostel in Tokyo, located right behind a theme park and with a direct view of Tokyo Skytree, the world's second highest construction. Accommodations for individual backpackers, families, and group travelers. Very friendly English speaking staff. From ¥2940 person/night.
- Taito Ryokan, (The closest station is Tawaramachi on the Ginza Line), ☎ +81 03 3843-2822, . An old post-war house converted into an inn. Friendly staff. Shared shower; two shared baths. No frills and thin walls, but you can't beat the price. A few blocks from Nakamise Street and Sensoji temple. ¥3000 per person per night.
- Tokyo Ryokan, ☎ +81 090 8879-3599, . A newly built, modern inn with high standard. Friendly staff. Shared shower and bathrooms. Just rooms and futons are provided, but at a low price. ¥3500.
- Hotel Asakusa & Capsule (ホテル 浅草 ＆ カプセル), 台東区寿4-14-9 (Several blocks east of Tawaramachi on the Ginza Line.), ☎ +81 03 3847-4477 (fax: +81 03 3841-1525), . This is a co-ed capsule hotel (gender separated by floor). No English is spoken, but staff are familiar with foreigners and have information in English on printouts. Capsule ¥2200.
- Ryokan Shigetsu, ☎ +81 03 3843-2345, . A nice small hotel with a mix of Japanese style and western style rooms. It is located very conveniently right next to the famous Nakamise Street in Asakusa. Friendly and helpful staff. Free internet in all rooms, two Japanese style baths and showers. ¥7665-21,000.
- Sukeroku-no-Yado-Sadachiyo, 2-20-1 Asakusa (A 10 minute walk from Tawaramachi Station or 15-minute walk from Asakusa Station.), ☎ +81 03 3842-6431 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +81 03 3842-6433), . checkin: 4PM; checkout: 10AM. Japanese style ryokan. On a quiet street. All rooms have shower/bath and toilet. Internet available. Two public baths, two tatami banquet halls, and a lounge. Singles ¥14,000, doubles ¥19,000, ¥1000 more on weekends and holidays.
Asakusa is a large Tokyo hub of the private Tobu railway, and you can transported to a different world from here if you have two hours to spare:
- Kinugawa — a hot spring resort fallen on hard times
- Nikko — with its national parks and opulent shrines
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