Today I finally had the chance to go to Asakusa – the district considered to be Tokyo’s historical capital due to the preserved traditional look of various buildings and streets. Asakusa is also home to Sensoji Temple, one of the largest in Tokyo and easily one of the most popular tourist attractions here. On the way to Sensoji you will encounter Nakamise which is a long shopping street full of stalls providing various souvenirs, traditional sweets and clothes. Some souvenirs were more reasonably priced than others, but on the whole I thought most of what was on offer was a bit of a rip off (but then again, it is a tourist spot so high prices are to be expected). If I had more money I would have bought one of the impressive traditional masks which were on sale (they ranged from 2000 Yen upto around 9000 Yen), instead though, I settled with one of the various neko (cat) models as a souvenir for the folks back home. There are also a handful of ice cream stalls in the area, selling a range of obscure and unique flavours – today I decided to go with O cha (green tea) and melon, and both flavours were immensely satisfying!! Upon arriving at Sensoji Temple you can buy some traditional Japanese food from one of the various vendors if you’re feeling hungry before moving into the actual temple. Unfortunately Sensoji Temple was subjected to the bombing from the second World War and as a result most of the current buildings are actually reconstructions. It was still an insightful experience nevertheless.
Unfortunately the streets of modern Asakusa haven’t stood the test of time, whilst walking around I actually felt like I had taken a strange step back to the 80’s (if you go to the area with the Pachinko parlours, cinemas and the insanely retro style ‘Rox’ shopping mall, you’ll know what I mean!!). Some awesome traditional style artwork has popped up on vending machines and buildings though, as well as the presence of speakers playing traditional Japanese music on the streets. Anyway, I wouldn’t actually recommend going to Asakusa on a Sunday if you hate crowds; Nakamise becomes immensely crowded and getting around can be a bit of a pain in the arse due to all the other tourists and old folks blocking the way! There is more to do in Asakusa apart from visiting the Sensoji Temple though – There is also the Sensoji Shrine, which luckily survived the air raids of the war, as well as a river bus which ends at Odaiba. If you’d like to check out some Japanese history in Tokyo, then Asakusa is the place to visit!