Asakusa is where I spent the first day and night in Japan and you’ve probably heard of it as it’s one of the most touristy bits of Tokyo. But according to pretty much every guide this is the area where you want to go to if you want to see temples and the more traditional parts of Tokyo. The mix of old and new (yes I know that’s a cliché!) was actually pretty interesting and I enjoyed wandering around. 1-0 for the guides. Here are some things I’ve seen and done that you might find worthwhile.
For this trip me and my friends did a mix of accommodation and our first stop was the Gate Hotel, a boutique hotel located on the main and most vivid street of Asakusa – Kaminarimon. The room for three was large, the bed comfortable and the ‘rain’ shower brought me back to life after nearly 24 hours on the go (I can’t sleep on planes :[ ). But the best thing was the roof terrace. Which we headed to immediately after we dropped our luggage for our first view of the city and a ”OHEEMMEGEE WE ARE IN JAPAN” moment.
Walk under the Kaminarimon Gate will lead you to Nakamise Dori and you will be surrounded by shops with the iconic red lanterns, selling everything from food to souvenirs. And go to the arcades around it too, the drugstores are fascinating and I ran into the weirdest beauty things.
At the end of Nakamise Dori you will find Senso-Ji – the oldest temple in Tokyo that dates all the way back to the 7th century. There you have a little fact to tell your friends when you stand in front of it and take photos. And that’s honestly all I know because we were so hungry by the time we reached it and could not focus on anything but the smell of all the nearby street food.
Okomiyanaki at Sometaro
Tucked away on 2-2-2 Nishiasakusa we passed the place three times until we saw someone enter and realised it was not a house. Sometaro is one of those traditional places where you take off your shoes, sit on the floor surrounded by locals and where you prepare the Japanese cabbage pancakes yourself. Unless you are tourists and they don’t trust you or think you are lazy. Then…they step in to do it for you. Regardless of that it was good and budget friendly.
Ghibli Shop at Sky Tree Town (Mall)
Finding things was often hard, but surprisingly we found the Ghibli Shop quickly … all thanks to Lisa’s very detailed description. I went to the shop at the Ghinli Museum but I preferred to go through this one as it was a bit better organised, quieter and had a wider range of things so cute you have to jump up and down a bit as you discover them. The Sky Tree Town mall is worth a visit, but really only if you have nothing else to do (which is should never be regular occurrence in Tokyo!).
And some things I haven’t seen or done, but that might be for you:
Tokyo Sky Tree
Sky Tree is the tallest structure in Japan and you it’s pretty hard to avoid it if you’re looking up in much of the capital. You can also see a pretty big chunk of Tokyo from its observation deck. It was closed on the day went there, but that wasn’t too bad because we wanted to go for the free alternative: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku. A free alternative in Asakusa is to go take the lift up to the 8th floor of the Culture Tourist Information Center.
Enjoy getting city views from a different perspective, plus also travelling at the same time? Well, then a water taxi to places like Odaiba (I’ll get there in a few ”Awesome Things I’ve Seen & Done”) might be for you.
Hanayashiki Amusement Park
Hanayashiki Amusement Park might be worth checking out. There’s nothing particularly special about the rides but or the park, but it’s more the surreal location – this tiny park, complete with rollercoasters and a bunch of other rides crammed in is right in the centre of the city, surrounded by towers and offices – like it was accidental dropped into the metropolis by accident.
I don’t like to bang my drum but I would here, this little interactive centre is devoted to the of percussion instruments from all over the world. I would have appreciated it more if my neighbour wasn’t trying hard to be the Whiplash kid.