Asakusa is one of the most popular destinations for travelers looking to explore Tokyo and with its beautiful sights, fascinating history, and local charm it is not hard to see why. If you want to find great food, local shops, parks, shrines, and temples all in one place, Asakusa is the place to go, but what should you not miss out on while you are there?
Located right in the heart of the Shitamachi (literally translated to mean “low city”) district of Tokyo, Asakusa has been a destination for tourists and travelers since the 1600s. While much of the area has changed dramatically since then, some of the original attractions are still drawing visitors to this day.
In this article, you will find the top 20 things to see, do and experience while you are visiting Asakusa so you can get the most out of this wonderful area – rated as one of the top spots to visit in all of Tokyo.
1. Sensoji Temple
The oldest in all of Tokyo, the Sensoji Temple was built in 628 and legend has it that two brothers built it after fishing a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the nearby Sumida River.
Sensoji was rebuilt in 1960 to look exactly like the original, after being destroyed during WWII. It is an iconic, colorful landmark of the area not to be missed.
Make sure that you get purified by the dragon-themed fountain and the smoke billowing from the large intense burner out front while you are there, and drop 5 yen into the collection box!
2. Hozomon Gate and Kaminarimon Gate
You can’t visit Sensoji without passing through both of these incredible gates. The outer gate, Kaminarimon, is known as the “Thunder Gate” and houses statues of the gods of wind and thunder.
The inner gate, Hozomon, is the “Treasure-House Gate” which is two stories tall and is home to many precious artifacts such as a copy of the Lotus Sutra which is a designated Japanese National Treasure.
3. Nakamise Shopping Street
This avenue leads directly from the Kaminarimon Gate to the Hozomon Gate of the Sensoji temple and features around 90 different stalls.
This is easily the most famous shopping street in Asakusa and you can find all sorts of souvenirs, snacks, and sweets along with it. “Nakamise” is a name given to shopping streets within temples or shrines and Asakusa’s is among the most well-known in the country.
4. Asakusa Shrine
Also known as Sanja-Sama, or the Shrine of the Three gods, Asakusa Shrine is a Shinto shrine that can be found right next door to the Sensoji Temple.
It is one of the most famous Shinto shrines in the city and can be found by following the large stone torii that mark the streets leading up to it.
5. Tokyo Sky Tree
The tallest structure in Japan, at a towering 2093 feet, the Tokyo Sky Tree is currently the second-highest tower in the world.
It is constructed using the same principle as pagodas and it is mainly built as a broadcasting tower, though the huge crowds attest to its popularity and also as a tourist destination due to its incredible viewing platforms.
It officially opened in 2012 and offers the best views you will find anywhere in Tokyo.
6. Sumida River Cruise
The Sumida River is a fantastic way to see Asakusa and the suijo buses, or water buses, transport locals and tourists alike all throughout the city.
With stunning views along the banks and many different options for culinary boat trips available, these modern, stylish waterbuses offer something for everyone and the prices are very reasonable.
7. Asakusa Underground Shopping Center
First built in 1955, the Asakusa Underground Mall is now the oldest remaining example of this type of shopping center, quintessential of the Showa Era (1926-1989).
There is a great variety of bargain shops, from barbers to electronic goods to casual eateries, and it is easy to access from EKIMISE.
8. Asakusa Engei Hall
Perfectly matching the old-school charm of the area, Asakusa Engei Hall is a theatre that specializes in traditional rakugo performances.
Though the intricacies of the comic stories may be lost on non-Japanese speakers, the artistry is a treat for anyone, and there are a lot of other shows on offer such as magic, kamikiri, and live music.
9. Sumida Park
A captivatingly beautiful haven in a busy city, Sumida Park is a wonderful spot to soak up the atmosphere of the area.
Only five minutes from Asakusa Station, this park runs along both sides of the river and is home to around 700 cherry trees, the blossom from which can be seen in Spring and is one of the most famous sights in all of Japan.
10. Asakusa Culture and Tourist Information Center
A striking building right across the street from the Kaminarimon Gate of the Sensoji Temple, the Asakusa Culture and Tourist Information Center is a great place to start exploring the area.
At eight stories tall, the building itself offers some of the best views of the district and the Sensoji Temple, and many free guided tours originate here.
Hanayashiki is Japan’s first and oldest amusement park and has been drawing crowds since 1853. Starting life as a simple flower park, there are now many attractions to entertain visitors of all ages and though it isn’t the largest amusement park in Japan, its historic value is worth the trip alone.
12. Demboin Temple Garden
The garden adjacent to the famous Sensoji temple, Demboin features stunning tea houses, peaceful ponds, and beautifully manicured trees and lawns.
Large, valuable votive pictures and treasures owned by the Sensoji Temple are on display, including some incredible artwork. The bell in the garden is one of Tokyo’s oldest and was crafted in 1387.
13. Asakusa Kagekijo
Asakusa was once the most important entertainment district in all of Japan, and the Asakusa Kagekijo Theatre (Flower Theatre) still celebrates that tradition today.
This theatre combines the modern and the historical, with plays, musical events, martial arts displays, and even e-sports on offer. It is also available to be booked for different events, so it is worth investigating what is happening while you are there.
14. Honryuin Matsuchiyama Shoden
Matsuchiyama Shoden is one of the constituent temples of Sensoji and is located on the sacred Matsuchiyama Mound at the top of a beautiful staircase.
While you are visiting, look out for the images of Japanese radishes, or daikon, and pouches that are depicted throughout the temple, which represent the gifts that are granted by prayers.
15. Onigiri Asakusa Yadoroku
You will definitely want to try the traditional rice balls, or onigiri, while you are in Japan and there is no place better for the full experience than Onigiri Asakusa Yadoroku.
They have been service onigiri since 1954, when white rice was a luxury, and hold the title of Tokyo’s oldest onigiri restaurant.
The compact restaurant is located right behind the Sensoji Temple and uses specially selected Japanese ingredients to deliver powerful flavors through simplicity.
16. Take a Rickshaw Ride
Another great way to explore the streets of Asakusa and see as much of the district as you can is by jumping aboard a rickshaw.
These tours don’t require any advanced booking and give you a real on-the-ground experience of all that Asakusa has to offer, with friendly guides that will make sure your ride is an unforgettable one.
17. Japanese Lantern Plant Fair (Hozuki-Ichi)
If you are lucky enough to visit at the right time, the lantern plant fair is a summer tradition that is said to provide prayers with 46,000 times as much potency as on a regular day.
The beautiful flowers are named after the unique red-paper lanterns of Asia that they resemble and about 100 stalls appear within the Sensoji Temple to sell them during this special festival.
All along the different streets, you will find vendors making and selling Ningyoyaki, traditional Japanese snack cakes that are made by pouring batter into intricate molds.
While there are many other delicious treats on offer as well, watching these cakes being made into fish, lanterns, or Hello Kitty faces is all part of the fun.
19. Asahi Beer Hall
You can’t miss this modern landmark in Asakusa – the Asahi Beer Hall is one of the buildings of the Asahi Breweries headquarters which run along the bank of the Sumida River.
Its distinctive golden “Asahi Flame” is designed to represent the burning heat of the beer as well as a frothy head, though it has gained the unfortunate nickname of “the golden poo” from the locals.
20. Edo Taito Traditional Crafts Center
A museum offering hands-on experiences, the Edo Taito Traditional Crafts Center is a great way to explore the history of craftsmanship in Japan.
With two floors of exhibits to see, fascinating things to learn, and incredible workshops to take part in, there is no limit to what the center offers.