Asakusa District Walking Tour, Tokyo

Asakusa District Walking Tour (Self Guided), Tokyo

The Asakusa district is one of the few places in Tokyo that retains the old world's charm. Known as Tokyo's oldest geisha district, this neighborhood houses narrow streets, temple markets, traditional shops and restaurants that collectively create the air of old Tokyo.

At the heart of Asakusa, you'll find the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center, a helpful starting point for your exploration of the area.

One of the most iconic landmarks in Asakusa is the Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon). It marks the entrance to the historic Nakamise Street, a bustling marketplace where you can shop for traditional Japanese souvenirs and snacks. As you continue your journey, you'll come across the magnificent Hozomon Gate and the Gojunoto, a five-story pagoda and symbol of Japanese architecture.

The Senso-ji Temple, a revered Buddhist sanctuary famous for its striking red color, is a focal point of Asakusa. Just next to it stands the Asakusa Shrine, a Shinto house of worship where you can experience the spiritual side of Japanese culture.

While exploring Asakusa, don't miss out on a visit to Suzukien Teashop, where you can savor delicious matcha ice cream — a delightful treat for your taste buds. Nearby, you'll find the Ichikawa Danjuro IX Statue, a tribute to a renowned Kabuki actor, adding a touch of theatrical history to the district.

For those seeking thrills and entertainment, Hanayashiki is a historic amusement park that offers a range of attractions suitable for visitors of all ages.

It won't be an exaggeration to claim that Asakusa encapsulates the essence of Japan's past and present. With its ancient temples, vibrant shopping streets, and delightful culinary experiences, this place promises a rich cultural journey. Take our self-guided walking tour to explore this traditional Japanese neighborhood and experience the carnival atmosphere that pervades it.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Asakusa District Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Asakusa District Walking Tour
Guide Location: Japan » Tokyo (See other walking tours in Tokyo)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Author: ann
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center
  • Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate)
  • Nakamise Shopping Street
  • Hōzōmon Gate
  • Gojunoto
  • Senso-ji Temple
  • Asakusa Shrine
  • Suzukien Teashop (Matcha Ice Cream)
  • Ichikawa Danjuro IX Statue
  • Hanayashiki
1
Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center

1) Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center

Asakusa Culture Information Center is the ideal place to learn as much as possible about tourism while in Tokyo. The tourist center, which opened in 2012, offers advice about things to see and do. However, the center itself is a great destination for lovers of architecture.

The Asakusa Culture Information Center building was built in 2012. Kengo Kuma & Associates designed the wood and glass building in a modern style that creates an appearance of traditional Japanese houses stacked atop one another in an almost haphazard fashion.

The interior of the building is open to the public. Guides are available to answer questions in Japanese, English and a variety of other languages. In addition to offering brochures and tourist info, they can provide information on traditional Japanese cultural experiences. Those on walking tours can stop inside to use the restroom or the free wi-fi. They can also exchange currency.

The tourism center is located adjacent to Kaminari-mon Gate on Kaminariomon-dori Street. It offers a good glimpse of modern Japanese design from the outside and an excellent view of the Tokyo Skytree from the building's 8th floor observation deck.
2
Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate)

2) Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate)

The Kaminarimon serves as the initial grand gate leading to the Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa. It's called the "Thunder Gate" when translated, and it holds significant symbolic value for Asakusa.

Originally erected during the Samurai era in 942 by Taira no Kinmasa, the gate was moved to its current location in 1635. Unfortunately, it suffered fire damage in 1639 but was reconstructed under the auspices of the shogun lord Tokugawa Lemitsu. In 1960, the gate underwent further renovations to restore its present appearance.

Standing at a towering 11.7 meters in height and spanning 11.4 meters in width, the Kaminarimon contains four statues. At the gate's front, the statues of Fujin, the God of the wind, and Raijin, the God of thunder, adorn the eastern and western sides, respectively. Towards the rear of the gate, you'll find statues of the Buddhist God Tenryu and the Goddess Kinryu. These statues are often revered by the Japanese people to seek peace, good health, and good fortune.

In the center of the gate hangs a massive red paper lantern known as a Chochin, generously donated by Panasonic's founder. The front of the lantern bears the inscription "Kaminarimon," while the gate's official name, "Furaijinmon," is painted on the back. The lantern has a wooden base adorned with a sculpted dragon.

Why You Should Visit:
Iconic Asakusa photo spot! Peaceful area full of local food to try.

Tip:
The gate is best seen illuminated at night when crowds have thinned out.
3
Nakamise Shopping Street

3) Nakamise Shopping Street

Nakamise-dori is a shopping street that leads from the Kaminarimon Gate to the Senso-ji temple in Asakusa, Tokyo. The shopping street is popular with both locals visiting the temple and tourists looking for souvenirs.

The Nakamise-dori was established in 1685. The 12 subsidiary temples that lined both sides of the Senso-ji Temple were allowed to put stalls in front selling souvenirs after promising local residents that the area would be maintained and kept clean by them. The name Nakamise means inner shopping street because it is sandwiched between two other larger commercial areas. In 1885, the government evicted the shopkeepers and built a line of brick and vermilion lacquered shop buildings. The market was damaged by the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake and rebuilt only to be destroyed again during the bombings of World War II.

Approximately 90 shops line the 250-meter street. The shops sell ningyoyaki, a baked confectionary, handmade rice crackers, local crafts, masks, dolls, casual kimonos and happi coats or short kimono styled coats. Professional performers come here to purchase accessories used for traditional dances and theatrical performances. Visitors can also buy tourist souvenirs like t-shirts and caps in Nakamise-dori on their way to the Senso-ji Temple.

Why You Should Visit:
If you're hunting for a souvenir this is your stop. Then again, some are not here for the shopping, but for the atmosphere and the wide range of street foods and restaurants :)

Tip:
Do bring cash, as not many vendors accept cards.
4
Hōzōmon Gate

4) Hōzōmon Gate

The Hōzōmon is the inner gate of Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, where valuable temple artifacts are stored. This gate consists of two floors, with the temple's treasures located on the upper level.

Originally constructed in 942 by Taira no Kinmasa, a military commander at the time, the Hōzōmon was built as an expression of gratitude to Senso-ji Temple after Kinmasa achieved his goal of becoming the Lord of Tokyo through his prayers. Unfortunately, the original gate was destroyed by a fire in 1631. It was later rebuilt by Tokugawa Lemitsu, the 3rd Tokugawa Shogun, and this reconstructed gate stood for 300 years until it was damaged during World War II bombings. The current Hōzōmon is a modern structure made of steel-reinforced materials designed to resist fire, ensuring the safety of the temple's precious items.

The Hōzōmon features two impressive 5.5-meter-tall statues of Nios, or guardian deities of Lord Buddha. Additionally, it boasts three large paper lanterns, with one notably large and prominent red chochin lantern donated by the residents of Funamachi in 2003. This generous donation marked the 400th anniversary of the Edo period. Flanking the gate on either side are two hefty copper lanterns, each weighing 1000 kilograms.

The treasures housed on the upper floor of the Hōzōmon include a copy of the Lotus Sutra, a revered Japanese national treasure, and the Issai Kyo, a comprehensive collection of Buddhist scriptures classified as an important cultural property of Japan. At the rear of the gate, you'll find two straw sandals known as the Waraji.
5
Gojunoto

5) Gojunoto

The Gojunoto or Five-storied Pagoda forms part of the Senso-ji Temple complex in Asakusa. It is the second highest pagoda in Japan, the highest being the pagoda of the Toji Temple of Kyoto.

The first Gojunoto pagoda was constructed in 942 by the military commander Taira No Kinmasa. The original pagoda was burned down and another was built in1650 by Tokugawa Lemitsu. It was destroyed by a major fire in 1816 and rebuilt in 1818. In 1911 it was designated as a national treasure. The pagoda was damaged during World War II in 1945 and the present structure was constructed in 1973.

The present Gojunoto is made of fire resistant reinforced concrete and steel. It is 53.32 meters high and has a central pillar made of Japanese cypress wood which is the standard form of architecture in almost all Japanese pagodas. The five floors are loosely packed around the central pillar in an architectural style called the new Toinzukuri style. This type of design is meant to make the structure resistant to earthquakes. It also houses a lecture hall and contains the tablet of the Buddha. The relics of the Buddha are stored in the top floor of the Gojunoto.
6
Senso-ji Temple

6) Senso-ji Temple (must see)

The Senso-ji Temple, also known as the Asakusa Kannon Temple, is the oldest and most popular among Buddhist temples in Tokyo. It is the most visited temple by tourists in Tokyo and is famous for the many colorful and vibrant festivals and events that take place all through the year.

According to legend, two fishmen brothers Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari drew a golden statue of the Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, from the River Sumida. They tried putting it back into the river but it resurfaced time and again. The headman of Asakusa village heard their story and understood the significance of the event. He became a Buddhist monk and converted his home into a temple which is now the well known Senso-ji Temple. The first temple was founded in 645 AD, which makes it the oldest temple in Tokyo.

During the Edo period (1603-1868), the Tokugawa Shoguns were devotees of the temple and expanded the structure and gave it the reverential importance it enjoys today. It was burned down in the World War II bombings and was rebuilt by worshippers. The golden statue of Kannon is still housed within the temple but is never shown to the public.

Over 30 million visitors and pilgrims visit the temple annually and it is the venue for important festivals. The Sanja Matsuri, the largest festival of the Asakusa Shrine is celebrated every year in May and the Asakusa Samba Carnival takes place annually in August.

Why You Should Visit:
The Senso-ji Temple is the oldest and most important Buddhist temple in Tokyo, a must-see if you want to learn the history of Tokyo.

Tip:
There are tons of photo opportunities around the shrine grounds especially during festivals and other events. Walk down the side streets and you'll find many food stalls and restaurants with far fewer people. At sundown, the crowds are thinner and more importantly, the main temple buildings are beautifully lit!
7
Asakusa Shrine

7) Asakusa Shrine

The Asakusa Shrine is located on the east side of the Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo. It is a Shinto shrine that was built to honor the three men who built the Senso-ji Temple.

The Asakusa Shrine was built in 1649 by the Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu. The Bodhisattva Kannon statue in the Senso-ji Temple appeared in the fishing net of two fishermen brothers, Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari. Its significance was recognized by the headman of the Asakusa village, Hajino Nakatumo who converted his house into what is now the Senso-ji Temple. All three men became Buddhist monks and are enshrined as deities in the Asakusa Shrine.

The Asakusa shrine is located down a small street east of the Senso-ji Temple. A large stone gateway leads visitors and worshipers into the shrine. Unlike most historic and religious structures in Tokyo, it survived the bombing raids of World War II. The Japanese Government designated the shrine as an important cultural property in 1951. It has an architectural style called Gonden Zukuri. The shrine is guarded by two stone guardian half-lion half-dog sculptures called the Komainu who protect it from evil. It is the venue of the Sanja festival held annually in May which is one of the three most important festivals celebrated in Tokyo.

Tip:
Tourists are allowed to enter the Shrine location, but cannot take photos inside – only the front. You may want to visit the temple after dusk for an opportunity to snap up photos of the temple at night when it lit.
8
Suzukien Teashop (Matcha Ice Cream)

8) Suzukien Teashop (Matcha Ice Cream)

The Suzukien Teashop in Asakusa is a place where visitors to the city can stop for a cup of tea and some of the most unique gelato flavors that can be found in Tokyo.

Suzukien has teas from all over Japan. Try the sweet Kinryu tea from the Shizuoka prefecture or the minty Benifuki, which is said to help with seasonal allergies.

Along with tea, the teashop claims to have the world's strongest matcha gelato. The matcha used in the gelato is grown in the mountains of Fujieda City in the Shizuoka prefecture. Those who don't want the richest experience can choose one of the seven levels of matcha intensity. They also have flavors like strawberry, black sesame and adzuki bean.

Tourists can purchase souvenirs from the Suzukien Teashop in Asakusa. Teas are available in bags, loose leaf or ground. Most are provided in decorative packaging specifically for visitors from abroad.

The shop is located on Kototoi-dori Avenue. It is a short, five minute walk from the Senso-ji Temple.
9
Ichikawa Danjuro IX Statue

9) Ichikawa Danjuro IX Statue

Located on the grounds of the Senso-ji temple, the Ichikawa Danjuro IX Statue is dedicated to one of the most famous kabuki actors in Japan - Ichikawa Danjuro.

Ichikawa Danjūrō (1838-1903) lived in the Meiji era which was a time period when Japan tansitioned from an isolated feudal society to a modern, industrialized nation and an emerging world power. As a result of the adoption of western ideas, some elements of the traditional Japanese culture were in danger of being lost or abandoned.

Ichikawa Danjūrō is widely credited with ensuring Kabuki, a classical Japanese dance-drama, stayed vibrant and strong as Japan marching towards modernization and westernization. He was the head of Kabuki-za theatre and the first kabuki actor to appear in a film.
10
Hanayashiki

10) Hanayashiki

Hanayashiki stands as Japan's oldest amusement park, delighting countless young visitors for an impressive span of 146 years. This quaint establishment boasts a compact size yet houses a collection of 20 captivating rides suitable for both children and adults.

Originally, Hanayashiki opened its doors as a flower park back in 1853 during the late Edo era, coinciding with the visit of Commodore Matthew Galbraith Perry of the US Navy to Tokyo. In 1872, the park underwent a transformation with the introduction of play equipment to amuse children. It also featured a small theater showcasing Western movies and housed a modest zoo inhabited by exotic birds and animals. Notably, in 1923, this park witnessed the birth of tiger quintuplets, and in 1931, it celebrated the first lion born in Japan.

Following the conclusion of World War II, Hanayashiki underwent a transition into an amusement park under the management of the Togo Company. Remarkably, the company has now proudly overseen this 146-year-old park for half a century. Over the years, it has earned the distinction of becoming the most favored amusement park within the city. In addition to its thrilling rides, Hanayashiki offers a variety of dining options in its lunchrooms and a dedicated shop where visitors can purchase park-related souvenirs.

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