The Asakusa neighbourhood, famous for the Senso-ji, Buddhist temple, is one of the most popular sightseeing areas in Tokyo. Asakusa offers the sights, sounds and smells of old, historical Tokyo like nowhere else in the metropolis.
One of the wonderful things about Japan is the contrast of the rich tapestry of the past with the great modernity of Tokyo. In some ways though, especially around the temple, Asakusa does the opposite and contrasts modernity. It is impossible to gain any real understanding of Japan without understanding that the existence of Buddhism and Shintoism side by side have shaped the country. In many ways Japan is neither really ‘Eastern’ or really ‘Western’ and Asakusa shows us clearly that elements of both coexist and create a culture which is both complex and distinctive
Asakusa is not just for visitors, but it is also for the locals and offers many shops and stalls, places to rest and many great eating places.
We slowly made our way down to the Senso-ji temple. Here you can visit one of the many good luck stalls to see what your future holds. The costs range from 100 to 300 yen (about $2-$4 AUD). You put your yen in and then shake the tumbler until a chop stick falls out. On it will be a number and you match it to a draw. Once you read your fortune you fold your paper and tie it to the stand.
We walked up to the temple to a smoking urn, where we leaned in to wave the fumes over our head to improve our health then walked over to the next section which is where you wash your hands. Finally we walked up the stairs and to place some coins into the stand to make a wish.
On the approach to Senso-ji is Nakamise Shopping Street, a centuries-old promenade of shops selling traditional snacks and souvenirs like kimonos and bottles of saké. The streets zigzag with different stalls and artisan shops.
We spent hours walking around the shops and stalls, and then the temple with its grounds. There are garden areas with stone tablets with Buddhist writings carved into them, some are 7′ tall and many small and interesting statues with the history posted next to them. There are several peaceful places of beauty to sit and just enjoy being there.
For me Asakusa is a small representation of Tokyo. It encapsulates Tokyo’s transformation from old to modern. As well it also encapsulates the Japanese culture as this place is where you can find festivals, foods, markets and of course history and traditions and all within a few blocks. A must visit also if you are looking for authentic Japanese Souvenirs and Mementos. It was great shopping.
Life is still very much lived on the streets of Asakusa. A visit to this part of Tokyo is essential to get a glimmer of understanding this wonderful country.
A very lively place.