Asakusa: Tokyo’s Famous Temple District | Visiting Tips and Photos

Visiting Asakusa Tips and Photo Gallery
Trips for visiting Asakusa. Big photo gallery too.

Asakusa – The Tokyo Attraction That I Never Skip

Asakusa is probably the most touristy, tourist-famous, tourist-orientated attraction of Tokyo. Even more so than the Shibuya Scramble Crossing or the Skytree.

For decades, it was the poster child/spot of Japanese travel brochures. Likely, still is. If I’m not wrong, the heritage district was also always the first attraction tourists were whisked to on Singaporean Tokyo package tours back when such tours were the in-thing.

Get off an overnight flight at Narita, sulk on a bus for two hours, and there you are. At the famous Asakusa Thunder Gate Lantern. All ready for your film photo memories with your eye bags and disheveled hair and all.

For me, Asakusa and Sensō-ji are always my must-visit destinations whenever I’m in Japan’s capital—I’ve been coming here since 1998. I genuinely don’t mind the crowds and touristy shops; frankly, I find it convenient to shop here. As a Buddhist of sorts, well, I feel an obligation to always offer prayers at Sensō-ji since Japan is the only country I’ve been to where I have not encountered any major travel inconvenience or mishap.

Come to think of it, I’ve visited Japan over 15 times and there wasn’t once when I skipped Asakusa.

I’ll probably continue coming here whenever I’m in Tokyo. If I ever get to live in Tokyo for a few months, I guess I’ll base myself here too. The touristy attractions aside, this heritage district does seem like a pleasant and colourful place to live in.

Tips for Visiting Asakusa and Sensō-ji

I think what’s most important for travelers to know about the Asakusa district is that it’s a heritage area, but hardly as old or as oriental as you might expect.

It’s also a sizable district, half of which is the sort of urban sprawl you’ll see in any Japanese city. When a traveler “visits Asakusa,” he or she is typically just exploring Sensō-ji and the surrounding area.

To elaborate on the first point, the most famous Asakusa landmarks are all several centuries old but what you see today dates from after WWII. Remember, Tokyo was flattened by a massive earthquake in the 1920s then fire-bombed in the final days of the war. Sensō-ji, Kaminarimon, Hōzōmon, and even the famous five-tier pagoda were all rebuilt from the 1950s to the early 1970s.

Similarly, many Asakusa shops and businesses are over a century old but the buildings they are housed in are from the post-war era, if not newer. Standing beside these older structures today are also new, ultramodern landmarks such as the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center and Don Quijote Asakusa. In other words, today’s Asakusa is not traditional Japan the like of Kyoto’s Gion District or Kanazawa’s Higashi Chaya District but a rather curious blend of old and new, almost akin to a theme park. (And there IS a theme park here; Japan’s oldest)


The above said, Asakusa is still fun. Yes, tourist hordes considered. Lots of efforts have been taken to imbue Edo-Period and Meiji, Taisho Era flavours into the mix—the restored Asakusa Engei House looks right out of a periodic show when illuminated. There’s also a lot to buy and to eat here.

On food, when I first visited the Nakamise Dori in 1998, there were only senbei and other traditional Japanese snacks. Today, I think there’s a wider selection of fusion delights like strawberry and tempura daifuku than those classic sweets. Which further adds to that theme park feel.

Asakusa Festival Mural
The Asakusa Festival Mural at Asakusa Metro Station. This beautiful work of art showcases the Sanja Matsuri, Tokyo’s most popular shrine festival that takes place in and around the temple district in the third week of May each year.

10 Things to Enjoy in Asakusa, Tokyo’s Historical Temple District

  1. Marvel at the historical landmarks. Kaminarimon with its huge red lantern, the ornate two-story Hōzōmon, and the five-tier pagoda are all picture perfect.
  2. Sensō-ji is lovely to visit at any time of the day—the crowds actually add to the festive ambience. Even when the temple is closed, it’s a photographer’s delight thanks to beautiful illuminations.
  3. Nakamise Dori is touristy but is also full of attractive souvenirs and all sorts of snacks to try. Don’t miss classic snacks like senbei and sweets! Don’t forget to try new ones too.
  4. Several covered shopping streets near Sensō-ji are vibrantly decorated and well worth spending some time at. Many shops and restaurants have been doing business here for decades, too, and so they are glimpses into Japan’s past.
  5. Don’t skip the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center. Other than mini-exhibitions, the top floor has an open-air lookout with gorgeous views of Tokyo Skytree and the entire Nakamise Dori.
  6. Kids will love Hanayashiki Amusement Park. Though it is Japan’s oldest, the rides are new and modern. There are also ninja games and rides for the very young.
  7. Don Quijote Asakusa is large and with an almost bewildering selection of goods. The best part, it is usually not as crowded as, say, the Don Quijote branches in Shibuya and Kabukicho.
  8. Hoppy Street is world-famous for its atmospheric outdoor seats and affordable food. During the golden or blue hour, it is picture-perfect too.
  9. There’s a time-traveling “machine” in Asakusa, as in, the underground shopping street at Asakusa Metro Station. Step in and you’ll feel as if you just traveled to 50 years ago.
  10. There are various life-size figurines scattered across the touristy areas. Keep an eye out for them. For example, the dorobō (thief) on the roof.

Public Transportation Tip

Tokyo’s most famous temple district is easily reached by public transportation, but do take note that there are different “Asakusa Stations.”

The one that services the Tsukaba Express Line is a 10-minute brisk walk from Sensō-ji. You should only use this if you are heading to Don Quijote Asakusa and Hoppy Street.

The metro station that is the terminus of the Ginza line (orange) is the one to use if you want to visit the underground street and the Nakamise Dori. The exit is steps away from Kaminarimon.

The overhead station that’s part of the Ekimise complex is convenient for visiting the Nakamise Dori and Sensō-ji too; it’s also connected to the metro station and sometimes confusingly considered the same. What’s important to note is that if you coming over from the Skytree via the Tobu Skytree Line, you alight on an upper floor instead of underground. The Tobu Skytree Line is NOT part of the Tokyo Metro network.

(Watch the final moments of my video for a glimpse of the Ekimise Complex)

Asakusa Metro Station Lockers
By the way, the metro station has lockers. But don’t bet on there being any used units during peak visiting hours.
Denki Bran Liquer
Kamiya is a historical restaurant/bar beside the Ekimise complex and it’s famous for its Denki Bran drink. This century-old liqueur is blended with gin and wine, among other ingredients, and has been described as sharp, woodsy, with an intense citrus note.

Asakusa Photo Gallery (November 2023)

Tokyo Skytree from Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center
Since my video (see below) begins with it, let me share this picture of Tokyo Skytree taken at the rooftop observatory of Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center.

I have a visiting tip for the Tourist Center. Use the lift and head straight to the uppermost floor for views of the Skytree and the Nakamise Dori. Then use the steps to come down. There are usually mini-exhibitions on the middle floors.

Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate)
The world-famous Kaminarimon, or “Thunder Gate.” It really is picture-perfect for any travel brochure, yes?
Mario Kart at Asakusa
While I was photographing the Thunder Gate from across the road, Pikachu rode past in a Mario Kart! You know you’re in Japan when such amazing things happen!
Asakusa Nakamise Dori Shopping Street
The wonderful Nakamise Dori shopping street. Always crowded with domestic and international visitors. Always so full of souvenirs to buy and snacks to try too.
Nakamise Dori Food Souvenirs
Nakamise Dori food souvenirs. There’s a lot to choose from here. Frankly, I think no other Tokyo attraction has a wider selection, too, not even the tourist shops at Tokyo Station. (I bought one of the Fukucan in the smaller picture. It came with classic sweets)
Asakusa Nakamise Dori Strawberry Dango
This dango store isn’t at the main Nakamise Dori passageway, it’s at the alley immediately to the right. (If you’re facing Sensō-ji) As you can see, it’s strawberry heaven!
Nakamise Dori Snacks
My 2023 visit was the first time that I didn’t buy any senbei snacks. (You can see the stall in my video) Instead, I had a strawberry daifuku (top) and a tempura manju (bottom). The tempura manju was really awesome! So fluffy and warm, and with just the right degree of sweetness. A must-try!
Asakusa Churros Snack Shop
This shop sells everything from Bubble Tea (known in Japanese as Tapioca Drink) to Churros Sundaes to Daifuku Skewers to Lemonade. Wouldn’t you wanna try a “Monaka Skewer” with an adorable bear on top? Or a churros with cookies n’ cream sundae?
No eating while walking in Japan
It’s a cultural misconception that the Japanese never eat while walking; some attractions like food streets and matsuris actually encourage you to. At Asakusa Nakamise Dori, though, the street food stalls explicitly tell you not to. I think it’s to keep the shopping street clean. It’s probably also because it’s easier to find a talking cat here than to locate a public trash bin.

If you wanna have a better look at Asakusa food and snacks and the sort of non-food souvenirs sold at Nakamise Dori, please watch my video. There’s a toy shop here that I always buy a figurine from whenever I visit.

Sensō-ji Temple, Tokyo
Sensō-ji, i.e., Tokyo’s oldest, most beloved, most iconic temple. FYI, the temple venerates Kannon, the Japanese Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. The stalls to the left and right of the temple sell good luck charms (omamori) and offer “omikuji” fortune telling.
Hōzōmon and Five-Tier Pagoda, Tokyo
A classic travel shot of the Hōzōmon and Five-Tier Pagoda. I never tire of photographing these Tokyo landmarks.

Denboin Street

Denboin Street is a major shopping street perpendicular to Asakusa Nakemise Dori, one that you should not miss. There are all sorts of colourful, traditional Japanese shops alongside the entire street. The stretch nearer to the Sumida River also has many modern and traditional eateries. Best of all, the entire street is beautifully decorated with painted shutters and atmospheric street fittings. Practically everywhere is a photo opportunity.

Asakusa Nippon Daemon Figure
The stretch of Denboin Street heading towards the Sumida Riverbank has great views of Tokyo Skytree. You’ll also get to meet this imposing gentleman.

At first glance, I thought the Kabuki gentleman in the picture above was the famous Sukeroku. Turns out, though, he’s Nippon Daemon (日本駄右衛門), a Japanese robin hood from the Kabuki play, Aoto Zōshi Hana no Nishiki-e (青砥稿花紅彩画). Daemon is known as Benten Kozō (弁天小僧) too.

The figurine of Daemon-San is also flanked by two popular Asakusa eateries and photo spots. The first serves amazing Matcha Mont Blancs made on the spot. The second is the Taisho Romankan (大正ロマン館) where you can rent costumes and enjoy photos and desserts in a Taisho-Era setting.

Asakusa Matcha Mont Blanc
Unfortunately, the Matcha Mont Blanc stall was closed for a break when I was there. I waited for 15 minutes and no one came back … (sigh)
Asakusa Taisho Romankan
I did have a fizzy lemonade drink at Taisho Romankan. It’s a lovely if a little pricey spot for a sit-down drink; great service too. I think the main attraction here is costume renting.
Denboin Street Entrance Gate
The “traditional” stretch of Denboin Street heads towards Hoppy Street and Don Quijote Asakusa, and is graced by a traditional gate. (A sign underneath the gate tells you to get off your horse!)
Denboin Street Restaurants
The newer buildings at this famous Tokyo outdoor shopping and restaurant street are really beautiful.

Hoppy Street

The many restaurants at Hoppy Street were preparing for the dinner crowd when I walked past. I was greeted with more than one, “Onisan, ippai ikaga desu ka?”

Hoppy Street, Asakusa
The junction of Hoppy Street and Denboin Street.
Hoppy Street Restaurants
I’m not sure what’s the situation like in the summer—this visit was in November 2023—but I didn’t see anyone sitting on drink crates. You know, the way it’s usually shown in Asakusa travel photos?

Asakusa Engei Hall

Asakusa Engei Hall
You need to be proficient in the Japanese language to truly enjoy the traditional entertainment at Asakusa Engei Hall. But hey, taking photos before it is free. (This looks like a great spot for cosplaying photos, too, yeah?)

Hisago Dori

Hisago Dori
Hisago Dori is slightly further away from the temple and several shops here close early. But if you’re visiting in the morning, it’s worth making a side trip here for the ambience. Hisago Dori is also next to the Hanayashiki, Japan’s oldest amusement park.

The entrance to Hisago Dori (shown above) is very near the site of the long-gone Ryōunkaku (凌雲閣) Tower, a beloved pre-war Asakusa landmark. If I’m not wrong, the site, now occupied by a modern building, is to the left of the gate.

There’s a model of Ryōunkaku at the Edo Tokyo Museum. Ryōunkaku was also prominently featured in Edogawa Ranpo’s The Man Traveling with the Brocade Portrait, a creepy story that you must read if you’re into such tales.

Ryōunkaku Model Edo Tokyo Museum
Model of Ryōunkaku at Edo Tokyo Museum. The tower was badly damaged by the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and subsequently demolished. I wondered why Japan didn’t opt to rebuild it.

Older Asakusa Photos

Allow me to share various older photos of Tokyo’s most famous and beloved temple district that I took over the years.

I’m particularly fond of the night photos. They aren’t technically perfect, ahem, but they count among my favourite travel memories. I shot them while slightly high on red wine after an unforgettable dinner at Tokyo Skytree.

Nakamise Dori and Hōzōmon at Night

Asakusa at Night
I described the Nakamise Dori as an illuminated photo wonderland in an older photo essay. It is exactly that. [Photos from 2015]

Asakusa Underground Shopping Street

Asakusa Underground Shopping Street
Other than a wonderfully retro ambience, the underground shopping street is home to Ninja Bar. The bar has a most photogenic shopfront. The street itself looks exactly like the ones in the game, Ghostwire: Tokyo. [Photos from 2018]

New Year’s Eve Crowd

Asakusa New Year's Eve (2007)
I was in Tokyo on New Year’s Eve 2007. The queue to offer prayers at Sensō-ji was positively surreal. Despite the number of people, everything was so orderly. There were even signs telling you how far away from the temple your queue position was. [Photo from Dec 31, 2007]

During My First Autumn Trip to Japan

Asakusa Big Lantern
The big lantern in 2004. That’s 20 years ago! [Photo from Oct 2004]

A Geek From Singapore

Hōzōmon (Mar 1998)
That’s me looking absolutely darf at Hōzōmon. The ground was so wet because of snow. [Photo from 1998! I’ve been visiting Asakusa for over a quarter of a century!]

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Asakusa: Tokyo’s Famous Temple District | Visiting Tips and Photos
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Asakusa: Tokyo’s Famous Temple District | Visiting Tips and Photos
Explore Asakusa with my photo gallery and traveling tips. The famous temple district is a must-visit when in Tokyo.

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