by Bryce Marley
Continuing with our trails series, we are back in the vast land that is Tokyo for a different trail, from the newest, to some of the oldest, in Asakusa. Asakusa is old Tokyo: here you will find Tokyo’s most famous temple, Sensoji, amazing shopping, and not too far away, the Tokyo SkyTree. Following today’s trails, you will get to see some old, some new, and also the best shopping for your kitchen.
The trail starts just outside Tawaramachi Station in Asakusa. From here we’ll be making our way to Kappadashi-dori, the world famous “kitchen street”, through the laneways of Asakusa, to Sensoji, to see the locals pray and take in one of Tokyo’s most sacred temples, down the Nakamise Shopping street, then across the Sumida River to the tower dominating the skyline, Tokyo SkyTree.
So, let’s get going!
- Exit Tawaramachi Station from exit 1 and head down the block to the next intersection. Turn Left and you will be entering Kappadashi-dori, or, Kitchen Street (If you were worried that you have the right place, as you approach the street, you'll notice one building with a giant chef's head on top, and the balconies look like tea cups.)
STOP 1 – Kappadashi-dori, Kitchen Street.
This street that runs almost parallel with Senso-ji Temple, just a few blocks further down, is famous for being the supplier to most of Tokyo’s -- and many of the world's -- kitchens. After a stroll down this street you will be able to wander in and out of fascinating stores, each selling kitchen wares, industrial cookers, plastic food models and everything else you need for a commercial or home kitchen.
The big ticket item down here for tourists is picking up some Japanese steel. No we are not talking about a sword, you can put your copy of Kill Bill down. Here you will be able to purchase a Japanese kitchen knife, and we at Japlanning cannot recommend this enough! With the purchase of one quality Japanese knife, you will be able to throw out your entire knife block at home. It will be sharper than any knife you have ever used.
Japlanning Tip – Head about half way up on the left you will find Kama-Asa. They have been here since 1908 and will sell you the perfect knife, and even engrave your name in Japanese on it for free.
- Once you have headed about halfway up the road (300 metres) you will be at the intersection with Kappa-bashi, where you will see Tokyo SkyTree in the distance down the street, turn right and walk on down the street.
- Remember this is a strolling trail, so make sure you stop in any shops you want, or stop for a bite to eat if somewhere catches your eye. These laneways are filled with little known treasures.
- When you have crossed two intersections (and the entrances to Asakusa Station), the road will end in a fork. Take the left hand fork and follow it into the grounds of Senso-ji Temple.
STOP 2 – Senso-ji Temple
Sensoji is the biggest visitor magnet in Asakusa. Legend tells us that this Buddhist temple was created after some fishermen brothers discovered a statue in the Sumida river of the goddess of mercy, Kan’non, in 628AD, and were so inspired that they wanted to enshrine it. When the head of Asakusa heard of the news, he saw the importance of this Buddhist figure and took his vows as a Buddhist priest and remade his home into a temple (which is the Sensoji that we know today) and devoted the remainder of his life to Kan'non.
Japlanning Tip – Around the main hall you will find a building with walls of little drawers; donate 100 Yen and follow the process to get your fortune! Keep hold of it close if it is good, and if it’s bad, tie it with all the other bad ones to the railings and posts nearby.
- Once you have finished at the shrine, head out the main gate and start walking down Nakamise Shopping street, and this is your next stop.
STOP 3 – Nakamise Shopping street
The Nakamise Shopping street is a shop and stall lined street of over 250 meters, full of stores selling handmade crafts and traditional souvenirs and clothing, as well as mouthwatering Japanese delicacies being handmade freshly for you to fill up on. Be sure to check out the cross streets too, as these are all a part of the Nakamise Shopping experience, with laneways covered with hundreds more stalls with unique items for sale.
Japlanning Tip – Once you get to the end of the market street through the entrance gate (under the giant lantern), make sure you turn around and take in the whole picture - Nakamise and Senso-ji in the background makes a spectacular photo!
- Once you exit under the gate, turn left and you will see the Asahi Beer headquarters' quirky building, and the Tokyo SkyTree in the distance. Walk down the street to the bridge where you'll approach our next stop.
STOP 4 – Sumida Park
This beautiful riverside park stretches along both sides of the same named river, where it passes through Asakusa for a few hundred meters. Both banks are have wonderful paths for you to take a stroll along the river, as well as beautiful gardens. During Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season, the banks shine with Sakura trees lining the river in the park. If you happen to be in Japan in the last week of July, the park is the site of the Sumida River Fireworks show, lighting up the night sky in Asakusa.
Japlanning Tip – From the park, you can take a cruise along the Sumida River. Tokyo Water Bus run boats from 460-720 Yen for a ride. Be sure to do a round trip to finish your trail!
- Head back up to the bridge crossing the Sumida river to where you entered the park.
- Cross the bridge and continue on the road till it merges with Asakusa Dori.
- Continue ahead on Asakusa Dori until you are at the intersection of Asakusa Dori and Narihira 1 (Tip! you’ll see the SkyTree towering over you on the left).
- Turn left down Narihira 1 and cross the road, and you will be at the Tokyo SkyTree.
FINAL STOP – Tokyo SkyTree
Go up the tallest tower in the world and second tallest building in the world. Grab a ticket and go up 450 meters and see Tokyo from higher than most birds do. If you have timed the trails end perfectly, you could be up on top of the world for one of the most breathtaking sunsets of your life! Also in the shopping complex surrounding the base of the SkyTree you will find some amazing food, and be sure to check out the 100% Chocolate Café, a heaven for any choco-holic, and a great reward after beating the Tokyo SkyTree! If heights aren’t really your thing, Tokyo SkyTree shouldn’t be dismissed, as you can admire this architectural marvel from the safety of the ground, or visit the Tokyo SkyTree Aquarium and get close to some spectacular sea life, without getting up in the tower.
Japlanning Tip - For more information on Tokyo Sky tree and detailed directions to get there check out our Japlanning 101 – Tokyo Sky Tree article here. and for a detailed account of what it's like as a acrophobic (someone who's afraid of heights), check out our post on Beating Your Fears, here.
This ends our trail through Asakusa. This is old Tokyo in many ways, yet also the future, with Tokyo Sky Tree not too far away. It’s a must stop whenever our team venture to Tokyo. For the amazing Sensoji Temple, which is a photographers dream, the amazing shopping and Kappabashi Street, for which our kitchens seem to be more and more filled with products from! So on your next trip, why not take a Trail by Japlanning to Asakusa and get spiritual, shopped out, and see all of Tokyo from the clouds all walking distance between one another!