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Tokyo : Asakusa
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Tokyo/Asakusa

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* Asakusa is also famous for its "tenpura", fried prawns and vegetables. You can find many tenpura restaurants (high and low budget) in the streets near Nakamise doori.
 
* Asakusa is also famous for its "tenpura", fried prawns and vegetables. You can find many tenpura restaurants (high and low budget) in the streets near Nakamise doori.
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==Mid-Range==
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* '''Aoi-Marushin''' (葵丸進), 1-4-4 Asakusa, tel. +81-3-3841-0110, [http://www.aoi-marushin.co.jp]. Good tenpura in a convenient location, with fifty years of history behind it.
  
 
==Sleep==
 
==Sleep==

Revision as of 06:07, 14 September 2006

Kaminarimon, Sensōji

Asakusa (浅草) is a part of Tokyo's downtown Taito district best known for its many temples, particularly Sensōji.

Get in

Asakusa is the terminus of the Metro Ginza line, which is the best way to get into the area, perhaps by connecting from the Yamanote line at Ueno. Another option is to take the eponymous Toei Asakusa line, which carves a path through eastern and southern Tokyo or by using the Tobu-Isesaki Line.

Cruises down the Sumidagawa river depart from a wharf only 5-minute walk from the temple.

See

Sensōji

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 Sensoji 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 Gojūto (五重塔, 5-Story Pagoda), reputedly containing some of the ashes of the Buddha.

Other temples and shrines

  • To the east behind the temple is Asakusa Jinja (浅草神社), a 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).
  • If you turn left before the Hozomon gate and head west for a few hundred meters, the quiet Chingodo Shrine is on your left. The shrine is dedicated to the Japanese raccoon dog 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, has a beautiful private garden not generally accessible to the public, but you might get lucky if you ask.

Do

  • Sanja Matsuri (三社祭), organized at Asakusa Jinja yearly on the third weekend in May, 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.
  • The Asakusa Samba Carnival is 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.
  • Next to the Sensoji temple grounds is a small and somewhat lacklustre carnival complex with rides, booths, and games. The neighborhood theatre specializes in showing classic Japanese films, as many of the tourists are elderly Japanese.

Buy

Nakamise shopping arcade
  • 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.
  • 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. Note that most stores here are closed on Sundays.
    • Denkama (田窯), at the corner of Kappabashi-dori and Asakusa-dori, is 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 (strangely enough) famous for its beads and there are many specialty shops in the area.
    • Kiwa Seisakusho (貴和製作所). Asakusabashi 2-1-10, [1]. 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. Open 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM daily except Sunday.

Eat

  • 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.
  • Asakusa is also famous for its "tenpura", fried prawns and vegetables. You can find many tenpura restaurants (high and low budget) in the streets near Nakamise doori.

Mid-Range

  • Aoi-Marushin (葵丸進), 1-4-4 Asakusa, tel. +81-3-3841-0110, [2]. Good tenpura in a convenient location, with fifty years of history behind it.

Sleep

Asakusa is a popular accommodation choice for budget travellers and there are many cheap ryokan catering to foreigners in the area.

  • Ryokan Shigetsu, tel. +81-3-3843-2345, [3]. A nice small hotel with a mix of Japanese style and western style rooms at reasonable prices (¥7665-21000). 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.
  • Taito Ryokan, tel. +81-3-3843-2822, [4]. 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 (¥3000 per person per night). A few blocks from Nakamise Street and Sensoji temple. Closest subway is Tawaramachi on the Ginza line.

Get out

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