Asakusa (浅草) is on the north-east fringe of central Tokyo, most famous for the Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺) – Tokyo’s largest Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon (Goddess of Mercy, 观音).
From Shinjuku Station, it takes about half an hour by subway to get to Asakusa Station. Take the Asakusa exit of the subway and simply follow the crowd, you won’t get lost! Haha. When we got out of the station, the first thing we saw was the busy shopping street leading from the Kaminarimon (雷門, “Thunder Gate”) to the temple is the Nakamise-dori (仲見世), selling all sorts of Buddhist paraphernalia as well as assorted tourist stuff. This is said to be 1 of the best places in Tokyo to buy souvenirs & crafts.
Kaminarimon is such a popular photo-taking spot that it was an extremely uphill task to take an unobstructed photo of us in front of this gate. 😛 I still remember it was the same situation when I first came here years ago, shows how popular it has been all these years.
The Nakamise-dori stretches over approximately 250m from Kaminarimon to the main grounds of Sensō-ji. It is lined by more than 50 shops, which offer traditional local snacks such as Osenbei (rice crackers) and Ningyoyaki (small cake with red bean paste filling) as well as tourist souvenirs like yukata, folding fans & traditional purses. Most of the shops were filled with people, particularly food stalls that attracted many people to queue for the traditional snacks. We did not explore all the shops in detail but only browse through them as most of them are selling similar items. Nonetheless it was interesting to check out Nakamise-dori as we headed towards the temple.
From the temple, one can see Tokyo’s tallest building – Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) quite clearly. Tokyo Skytree has just been officially opened on 22 May 2012. It is a new television broadcasting tower with a height of 634m, & is the second tallest structure in the world at the time of completion. I saw news that visitors need to make advanced booking for any admission till 10 July 2012 to access the observatory decks as it is an extremely hot tourist spot now since they are some of the highest in the world.
After we prayed at the temple, we ventured into the back alley of Nakamise-dori just to see if we could find any ‘hidden treasures’. Wow indeed, there were cheap bargains in the little shops here! My friend grabbed a beach bag with great discount as well as some souvenirs & I also managed to find some cheap & nice little crafts to buy home. 🙂 We also found a cosy little restaurant where we finally had our first authentic Japanese Tonkatsu lunch! Hehe
The Tonkatsu set only costed JPY 650 (about S$10) but they were generous with the portion. I like that the rice is fragrant & the pork cutlet very crispy. What’s more there’s also radish (which I don’t remember they serve as a side dish for Tonkatsu sets in Singapore)! Indeed a great value for money lunch which I feel is my second-favourite meal for my entire Tokyo trip (the first being at Tsukiji Fish Market). 😉 I can’t read Japanese so I don’t know the restaurant name, but from the street sign, I can tell you it is located at 台东区 浅草1丁目 2-6 (apologies I can’t translate that to English :P). The chef is a kind-looking bespectacled Japanese ojisan & the waitress/ cashier was an obasan (probably his family member). Looks & feels like a family-run restaurant, so probably that’s why we were the only foreigners in the restaurant haha.
We spent about 2.5 hours in Asakusa & it was nice to soak in a more traditional & cultural aspect of Tokyo. Of course I did not leave the place empty-handed without buying some exquisite Tokyo crafts back home to Singapore.
With Asakusa, a memorable last stop for us before we bid sayonara to Tokyo, I hope all my posts for our Tokyo spring trip have been informative & a reading pleasure to you. 🙂