Asakusa is Tokyo’s shitamachi—the traditional, low-rise, down and dirty part of the city. Although on the surface it’s still ye olde Japan, this was the first part of the capital to have significant Western influence. It was even the site of Japan’s first cinema. Asakusa is a great place to stay if you’re on a budget—it’s a little far away from the central Tokyo attractions, but it provides a relaxing, quiet oasis at the end of the day.
Where to eat and drink in Asakusa
Asakusa is famous for its soba noodles—which means that at any given time, half of the country will be lined up to try a bowl. Our suggestion is to stroll around and scope out the least crowded place, but if you get stuck, you can always get your soba fix here. An alternative idea is to try Ramen Maru at Hisago Dori, Zenpin 300 yen-ya (where all the plates are 300 yen) on Sushiya Dori, or the Delia Pakupaku bento shop in Rokku Hanamichi, right by exit A1 of the station. If you’ve got a sweet tooth—or even if you haven’t, you need to grab a melon pan or one of these other Asakusa sweets too.
A fun idea is to take part in a night foodie tour of Asakusa—you get to try the best of everything, plus make new friends.
What to do in Asakusa
Asakusa is a hub of traditional Japanese cultural festivities. Whether it’s experiencing bartering for lucky rakes during the Tori-no-ichi, seeing the portable shrines of the Sanja Matsuri shaken through the backstreets and alleyways, or experiencing the golden dragon dance at Sensoji temple, Asakusa consistently offers glimpses into its storied Edo past. Sensoji is one of Tokyo’s most historical temples and is an absolute must-see. Look out for the impressive Kaminari Gate that marks the entrance-way to the temple, and weave your way down the stall-lined Nakamise-dōri shopping street (a great place to get rice crackers and all sorts of souvenirs) to the main building.
Keep an eye peeled for Phillip Stark’s ‘Golden Poo’ on the roof of the nearby Asahi Breweries headquarters. If you feel like getting a closer look, hop on a river cruise (technically a water bus). You can get to the Hama-rikyū gardens and Odaiba this way, and a number of other destinations too.
If you have an interest in Japanese knives or cooking utensils, or if you’ve ever wondered where all those plastic display food models come from, head over to Kappabashi Dori. The start of the street is marked by an enormous Chef’s head on the roof of an office building.
On the other side of the river, away from the vibey streets of Asakusa proper, you’ll find Tokyo Skytree—the expensive tourist trap (follow these cheapo tips if you must check out the tower). The area at the base of the tower is pleasant, with a promenade following a canal back past the newly developed Tokyo Mizumachi shops towards Sumida Park and the Sumida River.
Where to stay in Asakusa
Asakusa has a large number of guest houses catering for tourists, including the popular (and pretty damn reasonable) Khaosan World Asakusa Hostel and Nui Hostel. You can find more information about these establishments, and many more besides, in our handy Asakusa accommodation guide.