For many travelers, the allure of Tokyo lies in the enchanting combination of tradition and high tech. But, if it’s a nostalgic trip in time that you’re after, then head to Asakusa, the heart of Tokyo’s shitamachi (old downtown districts).
You can see all of Asakusa on foot, or you can take a ride on one of the many jinrikisha (rickshaw) that whizz through its congested streets. If you opt to walk around, you’ll immediately recognize Kaminarimon, one of two entrance gates leading to the entrance of Senso-ji Temple, the undisputed symbol of Asakusa.
Discover the iconic Senso-ji
Start your trip at the oldest temple in Japan. Step through Kaminarimon and you’ll be greeted by what seems to be two endless rows of shops and eateries that flank the Nakamise shopping street.
Browse tons of trinkets, try some traditional street foods and green tea while you make your way to the main temple area. Munch on traditional fare like senbei (rice crackers), manju (steamed sweet buns) and ningyo yaki (specially shaped sponge cakes filled with red bean paste). Because it is a huge tourist attraction, check it out at night for a more relaxed visit.
Gifts galore at Noren Asakusa
Although you can find plenty of souvenirs at Nakamise shopping street, it can get pretty crowded. Instead, shop at Noren Asakusa, a charming boutique that reflects the energy and colorful atmosphere of Asakusa.
Here you’ll find a wide range of gifts sourced from Japan’s regions, handmade accessories, as well as standard fare like kimono and kokeshi (traditional wooden dolls) and auspicious decorations like maneki neko (good luck cats), and daruma (wish dolls).
Address1-33-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0032
See Tokyo SkyTree
Towering 634 meters tall over Asakusa is Tokyo Skytree, an ultra modern structure that dwarfs its predecessor, Tokyo Tower. Head to the top observation deck and imagine how much Tokyo has changed since its Edo days.
While the surrounding area has been revitalized into a commercial and business district, the first floor of Tokyo SkyTree Solamachi pays homage to its shitamachi roots with shops that have a decidedly old-school feel. On the Tokyo Skytree complex, you’ll also find Sumida Aquarium, housing sea life from Tokyo’s tropic islands.
Take a night cruise
Rest your weary feet and cruise along the Sumida River on a yakatabune, a traditional dining boat that is a popular way to explore Tokyo. The boats were originally used in the 8th century and increased in popularity from the 17th century onwards. Though many routes are available, hop on a Tokyo Skytree – Odaiba course to see the fantastic LED display of Tokyo Skytree, the lights of Rainbow Bridge and Odaiba’s giant ferris wheel.