Five things to do in Asaskusa
There are plenty of districts in Tokyo that are well known for their modern wonders. Shibuya’s got its fashion and lights. Akihabara has its video games and maids. Ginza its shopping. All of these districts are great if you want to experience the very best of present day Tokyo, but what about the history? What if you want to experience a little bit of old school Japan? Have no fear, Tokyo’s got a district for that too.
Welcome to Asakusa. Home of the iconic Sensoji Temple and the Nakamise-dori shopping street. Here you can get your culture on by dressing up in a kimono, grabbing yourself some nifty souvenirs, and snapping a few pictures of the beautiful temple buildings. Not quite the Kyoto experience, but this is the very best Tokyo has to offer.
But since you’ve come all the way to Asakusa, let’s make sure you get the FULL Asakusa experience. Here are five things you should do while in Asakusa.
Across from the Kaminari Gate, you will find an information center. This eight story building has a unique design that you will enjoy from the outside, but what makes this center noteworthy is what’s on the inside. The first seven floors offer all sorts of information and pictures that will teach you about the district’s unique history and culture. Pretty typical stuff for an information center, but the eighth floor is a combination cafe and observatory deck that will knock your socks off. The view from the deck is phenomenal, and is easily the best sport to get pictures of the temple area in Asakusa. From here you can see the temple and its surrounding buildings as well as Tokyo Skytree. So get yourself to the eighth floor and enjoy a cup of coffee along with a tremendous view, before even setting foot within the temple grounds. I can’t think of a better way to start your Asakusa tour.
Tired of walking? Ready to feel like royalty? Well hop aboard one of the many Rickshaws and get yourself a tour you will never forget. The tours here range from 15-90 minutes depending on what you want to see and how much Yen you can spare, but regardless of which trip you choose, you can be sure that this will be one of your favorite Tokyo experiences. The guides are all incredibly nice, and even if they cannot speak English as well as you might hope, they will be sure to point out everything of interest along the way. At the end of each tour, the guide will stop the Rickshaw for a photo at one of Asakusa’s most picturesque spots. Along with the fun experience you get a fantastic new profile pic to add to Facebook. Perfect right?
At 450 meters, SkyTree dwarfs all of Tokyo’s numerous skyscrapers. The tower is certainly hard to miss, but once you actually reach the tower, it can be near impossible to take a decent photo. The sheer size of SkyTree can be terribly difficult to capture, unless you are in Asakusa. Here you can get the tower from numerous angles, without buildings interfering. You can even walk down to the river and get a beautiful shot of the tower as seen above. Asakusa Information Center even offers a pretty terrific view of SkyTree if you don’t feel like walking all the way to the river. Whatever you do, do not miss your chance at a good shot of SkyTree while in Asakusa.
Rickshaw not enough culture for you? Why not try on a kimono and take part in a traditional tea ceremony? This experience can get expensive (¥2,700 for just the kimono or tea ceremony, ¥4,400 for both), but this is an incredible opportunity to enjoy a bit of Japanese traditional culture while in Tokyo. Here you can watch an expert masterfully make a cup of matcha with traditional tools and methods, and then, with assistance, make your own. Telling you right now, the instructor’s tea is going to be better, but the experience is a good one. You can find this culture center to the right of the temple, and several of the rickshaw tours drop you right outside the the center’s doors. If you’ve got the Yen, you should definitely give it a try.
You should absolutely see the temple and its buildings during the day. See all the sights. Do all your shopping. Maybe even head over to Tokyo SkyTree to get a bird’s eye view of the city. After all that, come back to the temple to see it lit up at night. Bright lights are set up all around the temple grounds to illuminate and transform the gates, pagoda, and temple into seemingly completely different buildings. It almost feels as if you are visiting an entirely new attraction. I cannot recommend a night visit any higher. DO IT.
Visiting Tokyo SkyTree
If you are hoping to visit Tokyo SkyTree during your time in Asakusa, be sure to allot at least 3 hours for this one attraction. Once you arrive at the tower, you will need to grab a ticket that tells you what time you can even buy tickets. This wait time may change depending on how busy SkyTree is at that time, but a two hour wait is not unusual. While waiting, you can enjoy a mall, an aquarium, or even one of the seasonal attractions.