Week 4 since my return equals Day 4 in my diary of my 1-month Japan trip! Day 4 means Asakusa and Tokyo Sky Tree! If you missed Day 3, be sure to check it out!
My fiancé wanted to do the tourist-type things on weekdays not weekends because he hates crowds and wanted to avoid them as much as possible. So Monday we headed to the first place on my list of places to go: Asakusa 浅草!
Asakusa is an old temple town that became popular for wealthy merchants during the Edo period. Edo was the old name for the capital city of Tokyo. This was when the Tokugawa shogunate was ruling, so it’s also called the Tokugawa period.
Sensou-ji 浅草寺 is a famous Buddhist temple in Asakusa. It’s dedicated to Kannon, a bodhisattva representing mercy. The temple was even designated by Tokugawa Ieyasu as the patron temple for the Tokugawa clan. It’s also known as the Asakusa Kannon Temple, but I’ve never heard it called that.
Outside the temple, there are many jinrikisha 人力車 (literally, person-powered vehicle) drivers who want to sell you a ride around Asakusa. A jinrikisha is a cart pulled by a person. I think the best offer we had was ￥4000 for two people, but we didn’t take it. I think it’s a fun touristy thing to do, but it just wasn’t for me. Some of the drivers speak decent English, some speak pretty lousy English, but they will give you a tour of the area, including a famous brothel that is a little far to walk from the gates of the temple.
An interesting note, the drivers can’t enter a certain radius around the gate. Apparently, they got too pushy and were banned from coming to close because they crowded the entry gate. Someone asked a driver to take a photo for them, but the driver couldn’t because they couldn’t enter close enough to take the photo.
The first gate you come to is the Kaminarimon 雷門, or “Thunder Gate.” There is a huge red paper lantern that marks the entrance and has the kanji for Kaminarimon in black. On either side of the lantern are the guardians of the temple, the god of wind (right) and god of thunder (left), which protect the deity inside the temple.
Once you pass through Kaminarimon, you come to rows of shops called Nakamise-dori. You can buy gifts and souvenirs that are representative of historic Japan: fans, mirrors, versatile towels called tenugui , welcoming cats (manekineko), and dishware. I could literally spend hours just looking at everything.
The next gate before you get to the temple proper is Hozomon , or “Treasure House Gate.” The main hall is straight through, and to the left is a five-story pagoda.
If you go to the right just before Hozomon, there is a famous melon pan メロンパン store called Kagetsudo 花月堂. Melon pan is a sweet bread. I don’t really like sweet bread, but this store’s melon pan was amazing. There are many pictures of famous people eating melon pan, and when you order they will ask if you want to eat it right away or take it home. There are different preparation methods depending on when you want to eat it, because if you take home the fresh one it will not taste as good.
I also ate agemanju あげまんじゅう, which is battered deep-fried soft cake filled with anko あんこ (sweet red bean paste), and imo yokan soft 芋ようかんソフト (sweet potato soft-serve ice cream). No lunch, just sweets. That’s the way to roll when you’re eating temple food!
I wanted to get a good view of the Asakusa area, so we went to the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center 浅草文化観光センター. It’s literally across the street from the entrance to Sensou-ji, and it has a very unique architecture, so it’s hard to miss! It also has an awesome observation deck and some kind of café on the roof. You can see the Sensou-ji complex and the Tokyo Sky Tree from the roof, as well as the Asahi flying golden poo… Asahi Beer has its headquarters in Asakusa, and it has some kind of gold symbol with an interesting shape that has given it’s nickname.
Then it was time for a trip to Tokyo Sky Tree 東京スカイツリー! It’s easy to get to from Asakusa via the Tobu Sky Tree Line…but I’m going to save that for my next blog, because this one is already pretty long, and I have some things I must attend to!
Have you been to Asakusa? Did you try the amazing food?
Until next time, Japan travel fans!