It’s day one! We woke up and made our way from Ota, Tokyo. Ota was our overnight stop due to our late arrival time. It’s 15 minutes from the airport by train and coming in late we knew we’d be tired. We grabbed our bags and headed to our next accommodations to drop them off. After passing by a convenience store for breakfast we started our day one game plan.
Location: Asakusa, Taito
Activity: Sensoji (Asakusa Kannon Temple) Buddhist Temple.
The Sensoji temple is an extremely well-known spot in Asakusa. The temple’s vibrant colors and lively atmosphere makes it hard to believe it’s Tokyo’s oldest temple. It’s here you’d find the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) at the outer gate of the Sensoji Temple you see in so many Instagram selfie backdrops. It’s a defining trademark of Asakusa and Tokyo. The Nakamise shopping street is also here stretching out 200 meters long. It’s filled with shops and vendors left and right. If there was a “touristy” activity you’ve always dreamed to part take in like riding a rickshaw or wearing a yukata, you’ll find it here.
The temple is quite large. It’s bright vivid colors show up well on camera. Bonus info, the night time view is spectacular. The temple buildings are lit up, truly a dazzling sight.
While walking towards the Sensoji Temple from the Kaminarimon (Kaminari Gate), past the Nakamise shopping street we spotted a large black cauldron. Smoke was rising from it and the light smell of incense faintly drifted through the air. This is a jokoro, incense burning urn. Surrounding the jokoro, visitors proceeded to wave the smoke towards themselves. Covering their heads, pushing the smoke towards their clothing and onto themselves. Apparently, the Sensoji Temple Smoke is believed to be healing and helps one become smarter. When we worked up the nerves to ask, one person remarked it helped with purification.
Beside the jokoro were stands of wooden shelves. From here omikuji (written fortunes) are drawn. A metallic container held sticks containing numbers written in kanji. Working by the honor system, you put a 100 yen coin in the collection box. After praying or thinking about your wish shake the box and take the stick that comes out. Then match the numbers/characters on the stick to the drawer. Pull out your fortune and see what you get. Be sure to return the stick. We won’t divulge what fortune we received but let’s just say we’re content.
Close to the temple
In the daytime, you’ll find food stands outside the temple area. Our personal favorite karagi were sold. Stands included fried chicken, takoyaki and more. Back inside the Nakamise shopping street, many treats are sold like rice crackers, kibi dango, kaminari okoshi and lots of candies. Ningyo Yaki is a popular treat and souvenir. A sweet cake filled with sweet red bean paste and comes in different shapes. We’ve commonly seen the Kaminarimon lantern and birds. You can even watch the vendors make the treat. Grab whichever you like and cross eating street food off your to-do list.
The surrounding area of the temple is also nice. There are mini gardens with waterfalls and koi fish. Additional historic buildings. And though you cannot enter, the outside is still nice to look at.
More to do!
There’s also more to do in Asakusa. On our last trip, we went to Hanayashiki Amusement Park, Japan’s oldest amusement park. It was fun! It was nice to enjoy rides with a ticket book format, very nostalgic. Its esthetics was a mix of springtime scenery with dashes of peachy pastel tones. It’s a miniature amusement park we later learned was originally a flower park. If you go to the rooftop you’ll find a serene garden. We took a break there to just enjoy some quiet time and look at the view before realizing the significance the garden held.
During our last trip, we later returned for a night out, walking, eating and drinking at local shops. It’s was really cool exploring on foot while being passed by residents on bikes. It was at this time we tried takoyaki, the round octopus filled snack, for the first time. We checked out a sushi shop and later a restaurant for drinks. There we received questioning looks from travelers we caught up with when we ordered wine in contrast to their beers.
From daytime to nighttime Asakusa is a nice spot to spend a protion of your time in Japan.
Suggestions: Sensoji Temple, Hanayashiki Amusement Park, wander into a restaurant or bar
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2-3-1, Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo
[2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan]
Station: Asakusa station
(Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Tobu Line, Toei Subway Asakusa Line exit A4, Tsukuba Express). Roughly a 5-min walk.
Though the temple grounds are always open the main hall is open from 6:00 to 17:00 (6 am to 5 pm), in October to March 6:30 pm.
Hanayashiki Amusement Park
2-28-1 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo
[2 Chome-28-1 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan]
It’s honestly a short distance from the Sensoji Temple by foot.
It’s open from 10:00 to 18:00 (10 am to 6 pm).