Visit Asakusa Shrine, Senso-ji Temple, and the surrounding streets. If you take a rickshaw ride, the driver will be your guide. Japanese visitors love this area with its specialist restaurants, izakaya pubs, cafés, and sweets shops. Many stores sell crafts and traditional clothing and you can rent a kimono. If you like to cook, browse the kitchenware stores for utensils and knives in Kappabashi Street. Explore Asakusa and the neighboring Kuramae district and don’t miss the cherry blossoms along Sumida River in the spring. Ueno is only three stops away on the Ginza subway line.
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Kuramae is a station on the Toei Subway Asakusa and Oedo lines. The Kuramae district is located close to Sumida River between Senso-ji Temple and Asakusabashi. Take a walk around and explore also the smaller streets. Discover local cafés, bakeries, and shops. Traditionally there have been many craftsmen located in this area and younger artisans and designers have also set up their stores here. Look for accessories, leather goods, stationery and other handmade products.
Visit a specialist stationery shop, if you like writing, calligraphy, or drawing. There is an excellent selection of beautifully crafted pens, envelopes, letter sets and notebooks. High-quality writing products are examples of Japanese craftsmanship and design. And some stationery shops can customize products for you, for example mixing ink in a specific color.
Visit a small café or bakery and try some fresh baked goods. Similar to traditional Japanese sweets, many Japanese bakeries work with seasonal fruits and typically Japanese flavors like matcha tea and sweet potato. You can find muffins and cakes with a Japanese twist and popular items can sell out quickly. Have a cup of coffee at the store or pick up some snacks and walk over to Sumida River.
The Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center is located in front of Kaminarimon Gate. It reopened in 2012, in a new 9-story building by Kengo Kuma & Associates. The center provides information about local sights, history, and culture, travel support, and has a café and a terrace observatory. From the top you have a very good view of Senso-ji Temple, Nakamise Street, Sumida River, the Asahi Breweries Headquarters, and Tokyo Skytree.
Especially in the area around Sensoji temple you can often see people in kimono. Rental kimono shops offer kimono and yukata (lighter cotton kimono) for visitors. The staff will help you choose a good size and design for you and get you dressed. Options can include professional photos or a full geisha makeover. You could go for a walk or rickshaw ride all dressed up. It is best to check different packages and make a reservation in advance.
Nakamise is one of the oldest shopping streets in Japan dating back to the early 17th century when Tokugawa Ieyasu created the shogunate. Nakamise is always decorated according to the seasons and lined with specialized shops. They sell Japanese crafts and foods such as umbrellas, fans, “ningyo-yaki” cakes, handmade “senbei” rice crackers, and typical items from Asakusa such as traditional footwear and outfits worn at “matsuri” festivals. Nakamise Shopping Street Filling the 250 meters between the Kaminarimon gate and Sensoji Temple are rows of stalls where vendors sell toys, souvenirs, snacks, and other specialty items. This is the famed Nakamise shopping street. The area around Sensoji has thrived since the temple was established in 628. But it was not until the Edo period (1603–1867) that it really began to flourish. This was partially thanks to the first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543–1616), who patronized the temple in the belief it would protect him from misfortune. Vendors in the portion of the Nakamise that stretches between Kaminarimon and the Hozomon (or Niomon) gate primarily sold toys and souvenirs. As more and more people began visiting Asakusa—whether to pay their respects at Sensoji, or to visit the Yoshiwara red-light district, the Asakusa Sanza theater, or the other entertainments of the Okuyama area behind the temple as it developed into a thriving pleasure quarter—the merchants of the Nakamise grew in number. During the Meiji era (1868–1912), the Tokyo Metropolitan Government gained control of Sensoji, and ordered the merchants of the Nakamise to stop selling their wares. The market was replaced with the Western-style red brick shops that were in fashion at the time, but these were destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923; reconstruction of the area began two years later. Two decades later, the fire bombings at the end of World War II demolished the market once again. Asakusa’s merchants persisted, building the present-day Nakamise, which is a mix of modern and traditional shops with a retro aesthetic. The 88 shops sell everything from souvenirs and traditional goods to sweets, snacks, and antiques, and have painted shutters depicting the various events that take place in Asakusa throughout the year. No visit to Asakusa is complete without a stroll through this bustling shopping area.
Senso-ji is the oldest temple in Tokyo and dedicated to Bodhisattva Kannon, the goddess of compassion and mercy. It was associated with the Tendai sect of Buddhism until World War II and then became independent as the head temple of the Sho Kannon sect. Senso-ji is a very popular temple and visited by over 30 million people every year. It is also called Asakusa Kannon or Asakusa no Kannon-sama.
Instead of exploring Asakusa on foot you can take a rickshaw ride through this old district. Rickshaw drivers in traditional outfits wait in front of Kaminarimon Gate at Sensoji temple. They offer different tours to main attractions as well as to local spots that you might not find by yourself. Ask your driver for recommendations. Asakusa’s rickshaw drivers are knowledgeable guides. They can show you the best places to take pictures or the most popular shops and restaurants.
“Nihonshu” means Japanese sake and “jizake” local sake. There are many varieties and at a good sake bar you can choose from a wide selection. The staff can help you choose or prepare a tasting set for you with different kinds of sake or sake from different regions. Japanese bars also make very tasty food. Try pairing sake with Japanese dishes and have some sashimi, pickles, or a salad with your drink.