When we usually dream of Tokyo, images of neon-flooded streets, drowned out by a never-ending buzz of urban chaos, skate to the forefront. Meanwhile, there’s a side to Tokyo that’s oft-forgotten.
Wander through the nifty neighbourhood of Asakusa and you may find yourself wondering whether you’ve accidentally stumbled onto the bullet train to Kyoto, the cultural breadbasket of Japan.
Not that Asakusa so far removed from Tokyo life; just look to the sky, and you’ll see that the city’s always knocking. Even so, it’s easy to get lost among the historical architecture, temples, and laneways of Asakusa, and get whisked away—even if just for a moment—to a Tokyo that seems long gone.
Not sure what Asakusa’s got in store for you? Follow along with our quick guide to the best things to do in Asakusa and explore Tokyo’s coolest traditional neighbourhood to its fullest!
Table of Contents
- Got some extra time in Tokyo? Here are the top 10 best things to do in Asakusa…
- Purge yourself at the doors of Senso-ji Temple
- Get out & about on a rickshaw at Kurumaya
- Take the Asakusa Shichifukujin Tour
- Marvel at the hidden gems of Senso-ji
- Laugh & shout like a child at the Hanayashiki Amusement Park
- Shop till you drop at Kappabashi
- Tingle Your tastebuds at Suzukien
- Step into the world of sumo at the Asakusa Chankoba Sumo Demonstration
- Take a tour of Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum
- Hunt for elusive goldfish at Asakusa Kingyo
- Want to get close to these Asakusa attractions? Here’s where to stay…
- Done with these Asakusa points of interest? Here’s where to go next…
- What to do in Asakusa: A summary of the best places to visit
Got some extra time in Tokyo? Here are the top 10 best things to do in Asakusa…
Purge yourself at the doors of Senso-ji Temple
Step closer to the main temple building of Senso-ji Temple and you’ll find yourself swamped into clouds of fragrant smoke. The smoke originates from incense burners, thought to originate from the feudal era, some 400 years ago. It’s believed that this incense has a healing effect, and can purge you of your sins.
If you enter Senso-ji Temple, one of the most beautiful temples in Tokyo, from the front, you’ll find a dragon-shaped fountain and the jokoro, the large pots emitting the sacred smoke. Hang by for a little while and follow the lead of the onlookers to purify yourself.
In case you’re wondering, the water from the fountain is healing, too. Getting it though might be tricky. Just do what others are doing: Scoop the water with a cup (or use the public ladle) and wash your hands.
Get out & about on a rickshaw at Kurumaya
If exploring Asakusa on foot seems too daunting for you, hop onto a rickshaw instead. Dating back to the early 1800s, the trend of rickshaws, or as the Japanese call it, jinrikisha, has touched modern neighborhoods of Tokyo, ushering in a much-needed old world charm to an otherwise hyperurban setting.
In Asakusa, the rickshaws cover all the must-see sites, and give you a nice historical tour of the district at a minimal cost. What’s more, there’s a tour guide, as well as a photographer to add to the fun!
And if that’s not enough, the rickshaw drivers are brimming with knowledge and will take you to all the popular tourist hot spots, as well as some of the lesser-known ones.
You can choose from different schedules. If you’re looking for a short experience, opt for the 20-minute ride, and visit Asakusa’s most important landmarks. For a more immersive experience, hop on an 80-minute ride that covers Asakusa’s most authentic sights. Whatever the weather, sightseeing on a rickshaw will always stick in your memories!
Want to plan ahead? Book an Asakusa Rickshaw Tour before you leave! Tour includes a knowledge tour guide.
Take the Asakusa Shichifukujin Tour
Besides fortune telling, animal totems and lucky charms, there’s one more thing that the Japanese believe in: Shichifukujin.
Shichifukujin refers to the “Seven Lucky Gods” that are thought to represent seven different spheres of life and bestow good luck and happiness on anyone who pays homage to them in the first week of New Year.
Interestingly, the Gods are not exclusive to Japanese culture, rather they signify a sort of coming together of three different religions: Taoism, Chinese Buddhism, and Hinduism. Legend has it that keeping pictures of the deities under the pillow on the night of New Year will bring good tidings throughout the rest of the year.
Whether you’re seeking a little more luck in life or simply want to take a walk across some beautiful Japanese temples, taking an Asakusa Shichifukujin Tour isn’t be a bad idea.
You can choose from two walking routes. One route covers the temples, shrines, and landmarks present in Kyu-Tokaido Street in about one hour; the other route passes through Oimachi Station and takes around two hours to complete. Once you reach each stop, be sure to gather the ‘shuins’ (Stamps) meted out by the temple authorities.
Senso-ji is not just about the incense and worship. There’s a lot to explore in the sacred grounds of the temple. Amid familiar sights, there is a hidden shrine, marked by the presence of two towering Boddhisatva statues built in the late 1600s.
The one installed on the left is called Seishi; the other is Kannon, the same diety that inspired the building of Senso-ji Temple in the first place.
Besides gaping at the gigantic statues and lounging in the garden around, you can take a look at Bentendo located on the tiny hill at the left adjacent to a large bell, which was only stuck once. Also, don’t forget to catch a few sprinkles coming from the bronze dragon king fountain.
Laugh & shout like a child at the Hanayashiki Amusement Park
With a celebrated history spanning more than 100 years, Hanayashiki Amusement Park is one of the most popular attractions in Asakusa. It’s a stone’s throw from the centre of Asakusa, and offers multiple opportunities for entertainment, including modern rides and vintage ones.
There’s the typical carousel and a miniature Ferris wheel that has Japan written all over it. The steel rollercoaster is apparently the oldest in Japan, and acts as a welcome respite from some of the more sombre features of the park.
Some rides are smooth and nostalgic; others are downright thrilling. And if the rides are not enough to give you goosebumps, the haunted house at the farthest end of the park will.
Hanayashiki Amusement Park may not be the most happening attraction of Asakusa, but it exudes a certain exuberance and nostalgia that feels beautiful to revel in—especially when you are travelling in Tokyo with kids!
Shop till you drop at Kappabashi
If you love spending time in the kitchen, then exploring Kappabashi is one of the coolest things to do in Asakusa. Kappabashi is a vast neighborhood home to over 150 shops that sell all things related to cooking.
In Kappabashi, you can pick up some fancy Oriental tableware and cutlery at Niimi or check out some of finest knife specimens ever in Kama-Asa Shoten. Or perhaps you might want to search for a special Japanese ironware kettle that’s reputed to soften hard water and enhance the flavor of tea.
One of the more unique shops in Kappabashi is Iwasaki Be-I, a traditional store that sells artificial food samples—and even gives you the chance to create your own!
Legend has it that Kappa, mystical beings residing in Sumida River, once saved the streets of Kappabashi from flooding. In addition to hunting for cooking equipment, grab a few pictures at the quirky golden Kappa Kotaro statue or take in serene views of the Sumida River at sunset.
Tingle Your tastebuds at Suzukien
Suzukien is the delightful place where matcha and gelato meet. This ancient tea parlor sells a unique selection of tea-related items including seven different intensities of matcha gelatos.
The gelato at Suzukien is arranged in the order of increasing strength of matcha with one being the mildest and seven being the richest and strongest. Of course, the color varies, too, graduating from mint green to bottle green.
For those rare few who don’t take well to the flavors of green tea, there are a couple of classic western ice-cream flavors as well as some unique Japanese ones.
To top it all, Suzukien is located just behind Senso-ji Temple, so you can quickly slink in for a much-needed indulgence after healing and purifying.
Step into the world of sumo at the Asakusa Chankoba Sumo Demonstration
For a fun and entertaining introduction to the exhaustive art of sumo wrestling, check out the Asakusa Chankoba Sumo Demonstration. Picture this: Expert sumo wrestlers teach you the basic moves, and then you don an authentic Sumo suit and prepare for the fight of your life. (Well, at least of your trip.)
The sumo demonstration is open to kids, and the environment is very light-hearted and entertaining. There’s a host as well, ready to translate anything you don’t understand and chime in with jokes, making the session all the more fun for visitors.
After the match, you’re invited to sit down and appease your monstrous fighter’s appetite with big bowls of chankob noodles, a sumo favourite, while engaging in interesting conversations with your new wrestler friends. Be sure to snap some unique pictures for your wall!
Take a tour of Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum
A tiny museum in the heart of Asakusa, Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum is a testimony to the class, heritage, and expertise of the Japanese people. On display is an exhaustive selection of handicrafts and miniatures of famous monuments.
One of the most notable features of the museum is that it doesn’t just reflect the past, but also includes contemporary elements of the society, painting out a picture of everything that Tokyo stands for today.
The first floor of the Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum has numerous exhibits and handcrafted goods showcased while the second-floor houses fancier items like silverware, furniture, fabric embossed with traditional ukiyoe symbols, embroidered dolls, and Buddhist-themed goods.
Don’t forget to take a look at the temple model structure, which, stunning as it is, also speaks oodles about the skills of the Japanese artisans who regularly repair and update the shrines and temples of Taito War.
Interested in traditional Japanese art? Try your hand at ukiyoe with this Japanese woodblock printing tutorial in Asakusa!
Hunt for elusive goldfish at Asakusa Kingyo
You can’t visit Asakusa without participating in a festival! One of the most widely loved summer festival activities is kingyo sukui, Japanese for catching goldfish.
For about 300 yen, visitors are allowed to catch and release some deft goldfish. It’s a lot of fun, even when you’re terrible at it.
What’s best is that even if you happen to miss out on the popular summer festivals, you can still hop over to the Asakusa Kingyo and test your luck with it. If nothing else, you could at least snag some goldfish-inspired souvenirs for your loved ones back home.
Want to get close to these Asakusa attractions? Here’s where to stay…
Just look around and you’ll see why Asakusa is one of the top places to stay in Tokyo. The quality of accommodations here is generally quite good, even if slightly pricier than elsewhere in Taito Ward. Here are couple of our picks for the best hotels in Asakusa:
- MyCUBE by MYSTAYS Asakusa Kuramae: Dreaming of staying in a capsule hotel while in Tokyo? Here’s your chance! The cubes here are surprisingly bright and outfitted with extras like a TV, alarm clock, and luggage storage.
- Wired Hotel: A stylish boutique hotel with a perfect location in the heart of Asakusa. Offers everything from shared dorms to a luxury penthouse suite that promises to both eat up your travel budget and amaze you.
- Ryokan Kamogawa Asakusa: A traditional ryokan featuring classic Japanese-style rooms with tatami mats and a shared onsen-style bath. Senso-ji Temple and Kaminarimon are only a block away.
Done with these Asakusa points of interest? Here’s where to go next…
- Ginza: Tokyo’s most prestigious shopping district is a 20- to 30-minute ride away on the Ginza or Asakusa subway lines. Plan out your day with this guide to the best things to do in Ginza!
- Shinjuku: Set aside an hour to commute to the wild streets of Tokyo’s most exciting district. Get started exploring with our guide to the best things to do in Shinjuku!
- Shibuya: Even if it wasn’t home to the world’s busiest crosswalk, Shibuya is a must-see while visiting Tokyo whether you’re interested in eating its food or spending money in its glitzy and edgy boutiques. Start exploring with this guide to top things to see in Shibuya.
What to do in Asakusa: A summary of the best places to visit
Still not sure how to best spend your time in Asakusa? Here’s a quick summary of our top recommendations:
- Ready to experience the most beautiful corner of Asakusa? Senso-ji Temple and its beautiful surroundings present a chance to see some of Tokyo’s most interesting remaining traditional architecture.
- Looking for a little out-of-the-ordinary fun? Summon your inner child at the Hanayashiki Amusement Park or battle an authentic sumo wrestler at the Asakusa Chankoba Sumo Demonstration.
- Craving a unique snack? Cool down with matcha tea gelato at Suzukien, a popular stop located just behind Senso-ji Temple.