Tokyo’s oldest temple, Senso-ji, stands right in the middle of Asakusa, a neighborhood that is reminiscent of old Edo and therefore a major tourist spot. Kaminarimon and its huge paper lantern mark the entrance to Nakamise-dori, a crowded street of around 250 meters that leads right up to the temple.

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Overview and history of Asakusa

  • The best-known spot in Asakusa is Sensoji Temple, visited by 30 million people each year. The temple's history goes back to the year 628. Legend has it that two fishermen, brothers Hamanari and Takenari Hinokuma found a wooden statue caught in a net in the Sumida River. They took it to one of the most respected persons in the area, Nakamoto Hajino. Hajino recognized the statue as the bodhisattva Kannon, and made his home into a temple for it. This was the beginning of Sensoji Temple. In 645, a hall was built for the Kannon by Shonin Shokai. After that, this fishing village on Tokyo Bay turned into a bustling temple town. The Hinokuma brothers and Nakamoto Hajino are enshrined as gods at the Asakusa-jinja Shrine. The shrine holds the Sanja Matsuri (festival) in mid May, one of the most popular festivals in Tokyo. The area is also home to other lively events, including the Asakusa Samba Carnival (late August), Tori-no-ichi Market (mid to late November), and Hozuki Market (early July).

Introduction of Asakusa area

  • Kaminari-dori area

    Kaminari Gate (official name: Furaijin Gate) of Sensoji Temple, is one of the most famous sightseeing spots in Asakusa. The huge lantern under the gate is 3.9 meters high and weighs 700 kilograms. On its left side is a figure of the God of Wind, and to its right is the God of Thunder. Kaminari Gate was first built in 942, but it burned down a number of times. It was last rebuilt in 1960. Nearby is Kamiya Bar, the first bar in Japan (registered Tangible Cultural Property, built 1880). The interior is casual and similar to an old-fashioned Japanese diner where it is not uncommon for strangers sharing a table to strike up a friendly conversation. Kamiya Bar is known for its brandy-based cocktail, Denki (Electric) Bran. Along the road connecting Kaminari Gate and Kamiya Bar, close to the no. 1 exit of Asakusa Station on the Ginza subway line, is the conveniently located Asakusa Town Hotel. Also near Kaminari Gate is Joban-do Kaminari-okoshi confection shop, which sells the famous Kaminari Okoshi rice cookies. A 3-minute walk from the Gate will take you to the traditional tempura restaurant, Tempura Aoi-marushin. First-time visitors can also visit the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center to learn more about the history of the area and enjoy occasional events throughout the year.
  • Nakamise-dori to Sensoji Main Temple area

    Along the approach from Kaminari Gate to Sensoji Temple (250 meters long) is the Asakusa Nakamise Shopping Street. There are many tiny shops selling Japanese-style items, including handicrafts, accessories, knick-knacks, confections and more. Some shops carry antique ukiyo-e woodblock prints, so all in all, it is the perfect spot for Japanese culture fans. Confections are prepared on the spot, providing visitors with fresh sembei rice crackers, fried manju buns, and bean-paste filled ningyo-yaki, to name a few. Asakusa Kibidango Azuma makes and sells millet dumplings, a specialty that has been sold at the Asakusa Nakamise since the Edo era. Once you make your way through the shopping street and past Hozomon Gate, you'll find yourself face to face with the Sensoji Main Temple. The structure you see here was completed in 1958 after the previous building was burned down in 1945 during the Tokyo air raids. Before entering the temple, wash your hands and rinse your mouth at the "water spot" in front of and to the right of the main building. Next get some of the "purifying" smoke from the incense burning in the huge vat in front of the stairs, and you'll be ready to go. The temple is divided into two parts, inner chambers and outer transepts. The transepts include the walkways, and the inner chambers are the tatami rooms. Visitors on the walkways can put their hands together in prayer towards the Buddhist figures inside the rooms. They can also get an omikuji fortune slip. Take off your shoes to enter the tatami chambers. No photography allowed.
  • Shin-nakamise-dori area

    Shin-nakamise-dori is at the intersection at Shin-nakamise-dori Avenue close to Kaminari Gate. It is a roofed arcade, just right for a walk even in bad weather. On this shopping street are restaurants, confectioners, clothing and souvenir shops, and all kinds of places where both visitors and the locals can shop. Restaurant Imahan-honten was established in 1895, and is famous for its sukiyaki. There are other old, established shops dating back to Edo and Meiji eras. A number of other streets cross the arcade, and each of them have their own selection of restaurants and inns. One of these is Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu, a cozy Japanese-style hotel about midpoint between the Kaminari and Hozomon gates.
  • Asakusa Kokusai-dori area

    This road was named for the Asakusa Kokusai Theater, and has recently been nicknamed Beat Street. The entire area is filled with music halls, restaurants, hotels, and other commercial facilities. One commercial development Asakusa ROX was built on a spot that used to be covered in theaters for movies and live performances. On floors 6 and 7 of the main building, ROX, is Kenko Land Matsuri-yu, a place to try out and enjoy a variety of different communal baths and saunas. The outdoor bath has a view of Tokyo Skytree. Overnight stays are available Monday thru Saturday. If a good view is what you want, we recommend the Asakusa View Hotel, with guest rooms on floors 7 to 28. Enjoy a wonderful view of either Asakusa and Tokyo Skytree or Ueno-Shinjuku. The hotel is conveniently connected to the Tsukuba Express Asakusa Station. The area has many different places to eat, including the only restaurant in Japan specializing in lamprey (a fish known for its medicinal effects) served on skewers with a savory sauce (Yatsume Unagi Honpo).
  • Azuma Bridge area

    Standing in front of Kaminari Gate and facing towards Sumida River, you'll see a bridge with red balustrades. This is Azuma Bridge. From the Asakusa side of the bridge you can see Asahi Beer Tower, representing a foamy mug of beer, across the river. Also note Super Dry Hall. The roof design, entitled Flame d'Or, was designed by French artist Philippe Starck). Because of the terrific view of a number of Tokyo landmarks, including Skytree, most visitors to the bridge take lots of pictures. Close by is the Sumida Ward Hall, which has a statue of Kaishu Katsu, an eminent figure born at the end of the Edo era. This is a must-see for history buffs. To the side of Azuma Bridge is the boarding pier for Tokyo Cruise boats. Enjoying a ride up the river to the Hamarikyu Gardens or Hinode Pier, you can get a feel for how people got around the metropolis during the Edo era.
  • Kototoi-dori area

    Behind Sensoji Temple, Kototoi-dori Ave. crosses Sumida River at Kototoi Bridge. This bridge was a site of tragedy during the 1945 Tokyo air raids. People on both sides of the river were convinced they would be saved if they could only get to the other side. Most of them were burned to death, unable to move in the ensuing rush. Today, however, the bridge is a much more peaceful spot, with tourists taking photos of Tokyo Skytree. Close to Sensoji is the Amuse Museum with exhibits of art made from scraps of old cloth and shops selling Japanese-style accessories. Don't miss the Ukiyo-e Digital Theater that shows high-definition videos of the Spaulding Collection (Boston Art Museum) of ukiyo-e, which for storage purposes, cannot be exhibited. In the same vicinity is Toritako, an old restaurant that serves chicken dishes to no more than five small parties of customers a day. Reservations only. A quick five-minute walk from Sensoji and the Tsukuba Express Asakusa Station is the Japanese-style Asakusa Hotel Waso.
  • Edo-dori area

    Extending from the West intersection of Kototoi Bridge towards Asakusa Bridge and beyond is Edo-dori Avenue. Beyond Asakusa Station and Kuramae is the World Bags & Luggage Museum. Learn about the history of luggage and see some unique collections from throughout the world. In the vicinity is Komagata Dozeu, a restaurant that catered to the taste of the common folk during the Edo era. Today it still serves hot-pot meals featuring dojo (loaches, small freshwater fish) that were so popular more than 200 years ago. A little bit farther along, and visitors will find themselves in the Edo-dori wholesale district map, full of warehouses handling Japanese dolls, stationery, toys, handicrafts and more.

Events in Asakusa

  • February: Setsubun Celebration at Senso-ji Temple

    Starting from the Denbo-in Temple in Asakusa, a procession of the chief-priest and setsubun bean scatterers will make their way to Senso-ji Temple's main hall, the Setsubunkai is then moving to a special place on the east side of said main hall. There, the traditional soybean scattering is taking place, along with lively performances of the fukuju no mai, or Seven Deities of Good Fortune Dance. At 10:00 a.m., the little ones of the Senso-ji Kindergarten take over the soybean throwing ritual, while in the evening, the Asakusa Kannon Celebrity Setsubunkai is taking place, featuring well-beloved Japanese celebrities. Usually, the soybeans are thrown at people dressed as ogres and demons while shouting "Demons out! Luck in!" to symbolize ritual cleaning. In Asakusa, however, there are no demons, as the deity of Senso-ji is Kannon, a Buddhist deity connected to mercy and compassion and thus the antithesis of any sort of demon. Instead, the people at Senso-ji shout "A thousand years of luck in!"
  • April: Yabusame, Asakusa Horseback Archery

    Yabusame is Japanese horseback archery, wherein participants don hunting garb worn by samurai and shoot arrows while riding their horses. Watching these skilled practitioners try to shoot through all three targets while controlling their thunderous mounts makes for a great show. This event was held in the Edo period as a New Year's event and was revived in 1983 as a sightseeing attraction. In recent years, it is held in a special venue in Sumida Park. Also, 'kusajishi,' an event in which unmounted archers aim for a deer-shaped target, is held at the same time.
  • May: Sanja Festival (Asakusa Shrine)

    The history-steeped Sanja Festival has been around since 1312. It is a large-scale event, counted among the Three Great Festivals of Edo along with Hie Shrine's Sanno Festival and Kanda Shrine's Kanda Festival. Sanja Festival is held each year at Asakusa Shrine to the attendance of about 1.5 million people. During the 3-day festival, approximately 100 portable shrines enshrining various gods are paraded through the streets of Asakusa. Asakusa as a whole is steeped in a festive mood throughout this period, as those carrying the portable shrines give out spirited chants as they weave around the area. In addition to the portable shrines, the 'binzasara' dance in which performers dressed in vivid costumes are accompanied by traditional music, and the shrine maidens' dance performance and the dedicative dance on the third day, plus Japanese taiko drum performances make for a spectacular event.
    What is the binzasara dance? Binzasara-mai is a kind of ritual music and dance performed in shrines to pray for abundant harvest, thriving business, and prosperity of one's descendants. It is designated as an Intangible Cultural Asset and is a rare performance that can currently only be seen at the Sanja Festival.。
  • July: Sumida River Fireworks Festival (Sumida Park and elsewhere)

    Continuing the tradition of the Ryogoku Fireworks which began in 1733, this fireworks festival is a summertime feature on the Sumida River. The venue is broken up into Venue 1 from Sakura Bridge to Kototoi Bridge, and Venue 2 from Komagata Bridge to Umaya Bridge. A competition between leading Japanese fireworks companies is held at Venue 1. At this competition each company's fireworks are judged by a panel based on various standards, such as the ability to express their chosen theme. Also, some of the approximately 20,000 fireworks that are launched along with Venue 2 are even part of a joint performance along with Tokyo Skytree®.
    Venue: Sumida River-side areas in Asakusa and Mukojima Nearest Station: Venue 1: 15-min walk from Asakusa Station (Tobu Railway/Tokyo Metro/Toei Subway). Venue 2: 5-min walk from Asakusa Station (Tobu Railway/Tokyo Metro/Toei Subway) or Kuramae Station (Toei Subway).
  • August: Asakusa Samba Carnival (Umamichi-dori St. to Kaminarimon-dori St.)

    Summer comes to a close with Japan's largest samba parade and contest held in Asakusa. Since its beginning in 1980, this carnival has gradually grown in scale into a large event, with about 470 thousand attendees in 2015. Samba teams from 4 leagues participate, including those from the top-tier S1 league. At the S1 and S2 league contest, serious samba teams from around Japan gather to show off their high-level performances.
  • November: Tori-no-Ichi (Otori Shrine)

    Tori-no-Ichi is a festival to pray for good health, good fortune, and thriving business on days of the rooster in November, and is a traditional event held since the Edo period. Based on the old Japanese calendar, this event is held on days of the rooster in November, which may vary year to year. In years when there are two days of the rooster in November it is called Ni-no-Tori, and when there are three days it is called San-no-Tori. The symbol of Tori-no-Ichi are the 'kumade' rakes, which are said to 'rake in' happiness and prosperity. In the Edo period, long-handled everyday rakes were decorated with masks and zigzag-shaped paper streamers, but these days they are adorned with all manner of lucky objects including images of treasure ships, wooden folding fans, straw raincoats, and ox-drawn coaches.
  • December: Asakusa's Colorful Hagoita-Ichi Festival

    The Hagoita-Ichi Festival is one of Tokyo's most beloved end of the year events. Hagoita are small wooden paddles, decorated with a variety of different adornments and ornaments. In ancient times, they have been used as ritual instruments for getting rid of demons and evil spirits but became most popular as rackets for an old Japanese badminton-like game called hanetsuki in the Muromachi period. Held in the precincts of Asakusa's Senso-ji Temple, over 50 different stalls offer their own unique hagoita creations, some masterfully lacquered with kabuki-esque imagery, others decorated with different jewelry and fabric. The prices vary wildly, ranging from a few hundred up to thousands of yen. Pick your favorite hagoita to take home one of Japan's most unique handmade souvenirs!

Access from Asakusa Airport / Main Area

  • 51 minutes from Haneda Airport

    Haneda Airport
    ↓ Tokyo Monorail(22Min) Hamamatsucho Station
    ↓ On Foot(10Min) Daimon(Tokyo) Station
    ↓ Toei-Asakusa line(16Min)
    Asakusa(Tobu/Toei/TokyoMetro) Station

  • 45 minutes from Haneda Airport

    Haneda Airport
    ↓ Keikyu-Airport line~Toei-Asakusa line(45Min)
    Asakusa(Tobu/Toei/TokyoMetro) Station

  • 62 minutes from Narita Airport

    Narita Airport
    ↓ Keisei-Narita Sky Access line~Toei-Asakusa line(62Min)
    Asakusa(Tobu/Toei/TokyoMetro) Station

  • 72 minutes from Narita Airport

    Narita Airport
    ↓ Keisei-Main line~Toei-Asakusa line(72Min)
    Asakusa(Tobu/Toei/TokyoMetro) Station

  • 18 minutes from Tokyo Station

    Tokyo Station
    ↓ JR-Chuo line(2Min)
    Kanda(Tokyo) Station
    ↓ Tokyo Metro-Ginza line(11Min)
    Asakusa(Tobu/Toei/TokyoMetro) Station

  • 37 minutes from Shinjuku Station

    Shinjuku Station
    ↓ Tokyo Metro-Marunouchi line(9Min)
    Akasaka Mitsuke Station
    ↓ Tokyo Metro-Ginza line(26Min)
    Asakusa(Tobu/Toei/TokyoMetro) Station

  • 18 minutes from Ginza Station

    Ginza Station
    ↓ Tokyo Metro-Ginza line(18Min)
    Asakusa(Tobu/Toei/TokyoMetro) Station

  • 35 minutes from Shibuya Station

    Shibuya Station
    ↓ Tokyo Metro-Ginza line(35Min)
    Asakusa(Tobu/Toei/TokyoMetro) Station

  • 13 minutes from Akihabara Station

    Akihabara Station
    ↓ Tokyo Metro-Hibiya line(3分)
    Ueno Station
    ↓ Tokyo Metro-Ginza line(5分)
    Asakusa(Tobu/Toei/TokyoMetro) Station

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