Asakusa is Tokyo’s most famous old neighbourhood. The Sensō-ji temple, touted as Tokyo’s oldest, sucks in tourists from all over the world. It makes Asakusa a highly touristic area, not representative of local Tokyo life. As the north-eastern corner of Tokyo is also a popular place to stay with hotel prices lower than central Tokyo, short term visitors have taken over this place.
Go in the evening. If you go by closing time of Nakamise-dōri, you can enjoy the light-up of Sensō-ji temple temple, the amazing shutter art and enjoy a drink on lively hoppy street. Read more.
Long story short, Asakusa is a tourist trap, but with a couple of nice places nonetheless, so it should not be removed from a visitor’s itinerary. However, approach with caution as you would any highly touristic spot in the world.
Asakusa has a wide variety of places to eat. I am afraid I was rather disappointed with many places I have tried here, so I recommend to play it safe and go for chain restaurants if you really must eat here, or do enough research that you end up at a good place. Of course, many exceptions exist, from matcha ice cream to senbei rice crackers.
This article lists my top recommendations in Asakusa. I have written many more articles related to places, restaurants and events in Asakusa. Please note there are plenty other places in Tokyo to enjoy traditional Japan. My favourite temple is Gokokuji and my favourite old neighbourhood is Yanaka.
1. Sensō-ji temple
Sensō-ji is the most famous buddhist temple in Tokyo, established in 645, and major tourist attraction in Asakusa, a neighbourhoud in the northeast of Tokyo. Enter through the Kaminari-mon close to Asakusa station. It leads you through the 250 meter Nakamise-dōri shopping street to the Hōzōmon gate, after which you will see the main temple building. Read more.
2. Dembou-in – Asakusa’s hidden garden
Dembou-in Teien, or Dembou-in garden is a quite large garden adjacent to the famous Senso-ji temple in Asakusa. While it is one of the most pretty places in this area, it is unfortunately only open during a limited time each year (from mid-March until early May). The circuit-style garden is approximately 10,000 square meters and has as its main feature a large pond. Read more.
3. Hoppy Street – drink old-style
Relax outside and enjoy a beer or some yakitori at an izakaya. Hoppy Street is named after Hoppy, a beer-flavoured low-alcoholic drink (0.8%) that was popularized in shitamachi as beer was too expensive just after the second World War. Read more.
4. Matsuchiyama Shoden – oldest temple in Asakusa
Once a top scenic spot in Edo. Matsuchiyama Shoden (also called Honryūin Temple) is positioned on a hilltop overseeing the Sumidagawa river and was immortalized in one of Hiroshige’s famous Ukiyo-e. This temple of the Tendai Sect of Buddhism was established in 601 according to legend (some sources even state 595) and is famous for its daikon festival. Read more.
5. Sumida Park – Sakura in style
Sumida park sits on both sides of the Sumida river (Sumidagawa in Japanese) and is one of the oldest hanami spots in Tokyo. It is often featured in the top lists of sakura spots in Tokyo, especially since it is offering scenic views of the Sumida river and the Tokyo Sky Tree. Read more.
Asakusa Station (Asakusa line, Ginza Line, Tobu Skytree line)
Asakusa Station (Tsukuba Express station)
Please note both stations are called Asakusa Station, there is 600 meters between them.
Names in Japanese:
浅草寺 (Sensō-ji), 伝法院 (Dembou-in), ホッピー通り (Hoppy Street), 待乳山本龍院 (Matsuchiyama Shoden), 隅田公園 (Sumida Park)