Asakusa Neighborhood – Tokyo – Japan
Tokyo dazzles the visitor with its soaring, spectacular skyscrapers and its famous Ginza shopping street with its impressive show of glittering lights and brilliant billboards.
To find a little slice of old traditional Tokyo head for the Asakusa district. During the Edo period (1603-1867) Asakusa lay beyond the city limits of Tokyo and was a hub for Kabuki theaters which featured classical Japanese dance, song, and dramas, based on popular legends. Most of the entertainment area, however, was destroyed during the Second World War.
If arriving by train, head for Kaminarimon Gate a five minute walk from the station. (Note – there are several gates.)
Kaminarimon Gate faces Nakamise Street which undulates with a sea of visitors both Japanese and foreigners – browsing the little stores that hug the street. Though highly touristy, it’s also utterly charming, and although the entire area was renovated following the Second World War, it still manages to convey the story of a bygone era.
At the end of Nakamise Street are the beautiful 7th Century Sensoji Buddhist temple and the Five-storied Pagoda (the latter not open to the public). Both were reconstructed after the Second World War and restored to their original beauty.
The billowing smoke from incense sticks burning in a huge ceramic Jokoro fills the air in front of the temple. Devotees gather around the Jokoro sweeping the smoke towards their bodies so that it covers their heads and faces. The smoke is used as a form of purification before entering the temple, while it’s also believed that the smoke has healing properties.
Not to be missed is a stroll through the gardens adjacent to the Sensoji Temple, especially in the autumn and the spring when they are at their most beautiful.
If one walks through the gardens, one reaches narrow little streets where tourists barely venture, and where tiny restaurants with limited menus cater to the locals.
We had one of our most memorable meals at a snippet of a restaurant that could accommodate twelve people. We got the feeling from the looks on the faces of the friendly cast of characters – who were obviously regulars – that foreigners rarely ventured into this hole in the wall. We sat at a counter, watched the cook at work, and were served the best sushi and tempura that we have ever eaten.
Evenings in Asakusa along Nakamise Street and the little streets that radiate from it – are magical.
Be on the lookout for the delightful Japanese art that adorns walls and doors as you explore the area.
Disclosure: the photo of the Ginza was not taken by me.