Sensoji Temple, Asakusa is one of the most popular tourist spots of Downtown Tokyo. It is the oldest temple in Tokyo, with a history of over 1,400 years, and is also surrounded by plenty of shopping spots.
For our 24 hour trip, we recommend riding the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line to the city center, to the area around Tawaramachi and Inaricho Station, which is just before Asakusa Station. This is another popular area called Kappabashi Street, known for its cooking utensils and food-related items.
Incredibly, it seems to be just as lively and rich in culture as it was in the past, so let's dive in and check out some popular spots in the area!
Public Bath Hinodeyu: An Ancient Cypress Bath
A short two-minute walk from Tokyo Metro's Inaricho Station will bring you to Hinodeyu, a historic public bath in a historic town. It is located on a side street just off the main street, and is managed by a young, fourth-generation shopkeeper, Mr. Tamura.
At the center of this rare bathhouse are tubs made with tile and currently hard-to-obtain ancient cypress wood. The comfortable cypress tub with its soothing hot water means you can truly relax.
The bath occupies the first and second floors of the building, each with a sauna and an open-air bath. At the time of our visit, the first floor was the designated men's bath, and the second floor was for women. According to Tamura, however, the men's and women's baths are switched up every week or so.
Among the guests, you will find many locals, as well as young fans of public baths, coming to enjoy a long, relaxing soak in these spacious, comfortable tubs. However, one more important feature of this place is the front area on the first floor.
Normally, the front desk area is where one would go to pay the admission fee, or purchase towels and shampoo. This place, however, is different. "People come here for a relaxing time. So we want to make sure they do just that, even after their bath," Tamura explains as he grinds fresh coffee beans in a mill. This little cafe offers homemade coffee with milk and ginger ale, as well as carefully-selected milk.
The coffee is made fresh. The beans are only selected and ground at the time of purchase for a refreshing and aromatic cup.
"Today's 'Bean of the Day' is Kenya Peaberry. At most public baths, you usually find canned coffee, but here, we want to serve only the freshest, most delicious coffee," says Tamura.
Maybe it is all of this behind-the-scenes effort made by the Hinodeyu staff to provide extra comfort and relaxation that makes them so widely adored by their fans. The menu is also written in English, so there is no need to worry even if you cannot read Japanese!
Public Bath Hinodeyu日の出湯
- Address 2-10-5 Motoasakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0041
2 minutes on foot from the Inaricho Station North Exit on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line.
- Phone Number 03-3841-0969
Hours: 3:00PM-00:00AM (Last entry: 11:40PM)
Regular Holidays: Wednesdays
KAMA-ASA: Assorted Kitchen Knives that Gather Worldwide Attention
Kappabashi Dojo-gai, or Kappabashi Street, is located about halfway between Asakusa and Ueno, and is easily accessible by the Ginza Subway Line from both Tawaramachi and Inaricho Station. A shopping street with a history spanning to the Edo Period, it is now popularly known as a “Kitchen Town,” thanks to its many specialty food-related shops selling cooking utensils and plastic food sample displays for restaurants.
Founded in 1908, Kama-Asa Shoten offers a wide range of incredible, Japanese quality kitchen knives, kettles, pots, pans, and more. All products are specialty items made according to the discernment of the shop's connoisseur staff.
In 2018, Kama-Asa opened their first overseas branch in Paris, where they continue to share their quality Japanese cooking utensils with the world.
Of their entire collection, the assortment of kitchen knives is perhaps the most outstanding. Each product is carefully selected for its sharpness, as well as its specific use, whether that's for meat or vegetables. The collection consists of only the most top quality items that are sure to last for a long time.
There are about 30 items categorized by shape alone, with a total of nearly 1000 pieces arranged according to size and material. Especially impressive was the shop clerk, who clearly and carefully responded to inquiring customers with thorough explanations, all from memory.
According to Ms. Yuasa, the sales clerk, "The taste and appearance of Japanese cuisine can change just based on the type of kitchen knives and kettles used. For example, special knives can be used to carve intricate cross sections, and special craftsmanship it what really makes a dish come to life with more flavor."
There are English-speaking staff available in the shop as well. On the day of our visit, there were dozens of European and American customers visiting the shop. "People don't just purchase them for home use," Yuasa continues. "We also do name-engraving on the spot, in kanji, katakana, as well as the English alphabet. So many of our customers also buy them as gifts."
While personalization is generally done on the same day, there may sometimes be a wait period of up to several days. Also, you can always bring in any kitchen knives purchased here for sharpening. There are also care and maintenance items available, so you may want to use them to check up on your current kitchen knife collection, as well!
- Address 2-24-1 Matsugaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0036 Japan
7 minutes on foot from Tokyo Metro Ginza Line Tawaramachi Station
- Phone Number 03-3841-9355
Regular Holidays: New Year's Holiday
Taishu Sakaba Okamoto: A Public Bar with a Downtown Flair
After enjoying the public baths and checking out the utensils of Kitchen Town, why not get a taste of downtown? About 10 minutes from Kappabashi Street, heading towards Sensoji, you will find Hoppy Street, lined with plenty of popular bars. Some of these shops open early, and are lively with people drinking from as early as 9AM. One such place is the popular bar Okamoto, which opens at 9AM and serves up beer and food.
This is the longest-established store on the street, boasting about 60 years of history. It has outdoor "Hoppy Street-style" table seats in front of the shop along the street, as well as retro-style counter seats towards the back. At night, this popular restaurant becomes even more lively with locals and tourists alike.
Menu items range from snack classics such as edamame (green soybeans), chilled tomatoes, and grilled eggs, to more savory dishes such as grilled chicken, fish, yakisoba, and oden. Of all of these, the most popular is the "Ganso Beef Stew," a staple dish which has maintained its taste and popularity since the shop's founding (600 yen, tax included).
The ingredients are simmered for a long time, allowing the flavor of the broth to be fully absorbed into the meat for a delicious, mouth-watering taste with each and every bite. This flavorful beef and broth even enhances the taste of your accompanying sake. The ginger inside provides a good accent, as well.
Another popular dish is the Tonsoku, or pig's feet (500 yen, tax included). These crispy pork feet slices are delicious and full of collagen, served with karashi-sumiso (a mustard-miso dressing). The unique texture of the pork foot is not too tough, and goes perfectly with beer and sake. We would recommend their pig's feet and pork tripe dishes even to those who may not be used to this kind of cuisine.
Taishu Sakaba Okamoto大衆酒場 岡本
- Address 2-5-14 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
7 minute walk from Asakusacho, Tokyo Metro Ginza Line
- Phone Number 03-3841-7587
Hours: 11:00AM-11:00PM (9:00AM-11:00PM on Saturdays/Sundays)
Regular Holiday: None
So what do you think? As you can see, there is plenty more to do and see in Asakusa aside from visiting the Sensoji Temple. Even if it is your first sightseeing trip to the area, be sure to check out any of the new spots introduced in this article if you can.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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