Mexico City, Mexico
February 15, 2002
The Asakusa area is most famous for Sensoji
Temple, Nakamise and Kappabashi
shoppig steets. The incredible variety of shops in Nakamise Dori, the 300 m
street that leads to Sensoji Temple, offers everything from cheap souvenirs to
authentic antiques and exquisite handcrafts. The price of souvenirs varies
little throughout Tokyo, but Nakamise Dori has a variety and selection not
equaled elsewhere. Many shops sell rice crackers (sembei) in a range of flavors
and often will offer pieces for tasting. The atmosphere here is usually jovial
and very friendly towards foreign visitors. Some find the shops gaudy and kitsch
but selling these type of wares is a tradition as old as the temple itself.
Kappabashi Avenue is famous as the area where the plastic food displayed in
the windows of Japanese restaurants is produced. It is also full of shops
selling more ordinary kitchen utensils. Most shops are closed on weekends.
Asakusa is one of the areas in Tokyo where you may have involuntary
interaction with Japanese school children. They normally operate in a group -
staring and giggling and always trying to push one member of the group forward!
Have pity on them as they are on English class assignment and have to ask
foreigners a few questions and report back to class. As soon as they realize
that you understand them and their purpose the shyness may disappear in seconds
and all may start talking and ask questions. The questions are usually related
to where you are from, what you have seen in Tokyo, where you plan to go in
Japan and your views on world peace. Some speak astonishingly good English -
especially the one initially being pushed by the rest - but some speak very
basic English. Remember that they have to report back in class so keep the
message simple and upbeat. They may ask to take your picture and will be happy
if you take one of them.
Behind the Buddhist Asakusa Temple is the Shinto Asakusa Shrine, which was
erected in 1649 on instruction from the Tokugawa shogunate. It commemorates the
founders of the Asakusa Kannon which is enshrined in the Temple. The shrine is
not of particular architectural note but it is one of the oldest wooden
constructions in Tokyo. The shrine somehow escaped the destruction that befell
all the other structures in the area - a miracle easier to subscribe to than the
golden unseen Kannon.
The photogenic five-story pagoda close to Sensoji Temple is a 1973 replica of
the Edo original.
Asakusa is the end terminus of the Ginza subway line, the departure point for
Nikko Tobu Railway and also a stop for the Sumida River waterbus.
From journal Tokyo Highlights - the essential must sees