Best of Asakusa Walking Tour, Tokyo

Best of Asakusa Walking Tour (Self Guided), Tokyo

The Asakusa district in Tokyo is famous for the Senso-ji temple and is one of the few places in Tokyo that retains the old world charm. The temple markets, narrow streets, traditional shops and restaurants provide a glimpse of old Tokyo. It is also known as Tokyo's oldest geisha district. Take this self-guided walking tour to explore this traditional Japanese neighborhood and experience the carnival atmosphere that pervades this place.
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Best of Asakusa Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Best of Asakusa 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
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.
Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate)

2) Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate)

The Kaminarimon is the first of the ornate gates that lead to the Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa. The word Kaminarimon translates as "Thunder Gate". The gate is an iconic symbol of Asakusa.

The Kaminarimon was constructed during the Samurai period in 942 by Taira no Kinmasa. It was relocated to the present location in 1635. It burned down in 1639 and was constructed again by the shogun lord Tokugawa Lemitsu. The present structure was renovated in 1960.

The Kaminarimon is 11.7 meters tall and 11.4 meters wide. There are four statues within the gate. In the front, the statue of the God of the wind Fujin is on the east and the God of thunder, Raijin is on the west. Towards the back of the gate are statues of the Buddhist God Tenryu and the Goddess, Kinryu. Japanese people commonly pay homage to these statues for peace, health and good fortune.

A giant red paper lantern or Chochin hangs in the center that was a donation of the founder of the company Panasonic. The front of the lantern has the name Kaminarimon painted and on the back is the official name of the gate, Furaijinmon. It has a wooden base with a sculpture of a dragon.

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

The gate is best seen illuminated at night when crowds have thinned out.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
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 :)

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

4) Hōzōmon Gate

The Hōzōmon is the inner gate that houses the treasures of the Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa. It has two floors and the temple treasures are stored on the upper floor.

The Hōzōmon was first built in 942 by the then military commander, Taira no Kinmasa. He prayed at the Senso-ji Temple that he may become the Lord of Tokyo and built the gate in gratitude when he achieved his goal. The original gate was burned by a fire in 1631. The 3rd Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Lemitsu rebuilt the Hozomon. This gate stood for 300 years till it was destroyed by the World War II bombings. The present Hōzōmon is a steel-reinforced structure built with fire-resistant materials for the safety of the temple treasures.

The Hōzōmon has two 5.5 meter tall statues of Nios or deities that guard Lord Buddha. It also has three large paper lanterns including one large and prominent red chochin donated by the residents of the town of Funamachi in 2003. They donated it to the temple to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Edo period. On either side are two copper lanterns weighing 1000 kilograms each. The treasures preserved in the upper floor are a copy of the Lotus Sutra, a designated Japanese national treasure, and the Issai Kyo, a complete collection of Buddhist scriptures that is designated as an important cultural property of Japan. At the back of the gate are two straw sandals called the Waraji.

Opening Hours: daily: 6:30am - 5pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

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.
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.

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!

Opening Hours: daily: 6:30am-5pm
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.

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.

Opening Hours: daily: 9am - 5pm
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.
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

Hanayashiki is the oldest amusement park in Japan and has entertained hundreds of young visitors for over 146 years. It is a small facility that is packed with 20 interesting rides for children and adults.

The Hanayashiki was first opened as a flower park in 1853 when the commodore of the US Navy, Matthew Galbraith Perry visited Tokyo in the late Edo era. In 1872, play equipments were installed to entertain children. Western movies were shown in a small theater and a small zoo with exotic birds and animals was located inside. In 1923, tiger quintuplets were born here and in 1931, the first lion was born in Japan at the Hanayashiki.

After World War II, it became an amusement park managed by the Togo Company. The company has celebrated 50 years of managing the 146 year old park. It has become the most popular amusement park in the city. Besides rides, there are many lunchrooms and a shop selling park related souvenirs.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

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