After two days in Osaka, we got on the bullet train again, returning to Tokyo. Bringing the whole family to the city wouldn’t be a good idea after a long ride, so the next day we brought them to Asakusa. Well, technically Asakusa is part of the city, only it’s filled with older buildings and religious sites, a more relaxed area located in North East of Tokyo. It’s a popular tourist destination, but despite the number of people going in and out of this place, it’s nowhere as busy and chaotic like the the more modern areas in the city.
Asakusa hosts the oldest temple in Tokyo, Sensō-ji or the Asakusa Kannon Temple, built in 645. To head to Sensō-ji, get to the Asakusa station from the Metro Ginza line and exit to Kaminarimon, the main gate to the temple (as pictured above).
Apart from visiting the temple, people visit Asakusa for the huge range of souvenirs sold at Nakamise-dori, a small street leading towards the temple, from the main gate. I’m not exactly a souvenir buyer, so the only reason I went to Sensō-ji previously were to sightsee and meet friends. My parents weren’t planning for shopping, so I only allocated an hour for this place, supposedly for sightseeing only. We spent at least two good hours instead – I didn’t expect that my parents would really enjoy it!
Among the things they brought back from Asakusa:
- Japanese umbrellas
- Japanese noren curtains
- Japanese folding fans
- Japanese sake cups
- Japanese silk coin purses
… and a couple more things. I couldn’t keep up. There are a lot more things one can get – rice crackers, candies and dry food, kimonos, silk, t-shirts, postcards, artworks, key chains, fridge magnets, miniature buildings, loads of Sky Tree merchandises, ninja costumes, figurines of famous Japanese characters, weird thingamagics and toys, toys, toys!
My colleague who had just returned from Tokyo recently, for a banking course, calls it the Petaling Street of Tokyo – but not quite. She paid for an item at a shop and forgot to take the change. While walking down the street, the shopkeeper was looking for her and returned the money that was owed. Colleague was amazed, of course, in her words:
While Reza helped my mom and dad shop, I was walking with Asna, looking for something Digimon for her since she’s currently so obsessed with it. Even though we know that Digimon is so 10 years ago. She was so upset that all she could find is Pokemon — be it in Osaka or here, at the street.
Almost at the end of Nakamise-dori, near this junction where the Tokyo Sky Tree was apparent, was a shop selling a whole lot of toys. Asna was already sulking because all she could see were Hello Kitty and Pokemon (or at least that’s what she recognized). I had a feeling we couldn’t find any Digimon toys around, but seeing Asna so upset, I asked the obasan whether they had any Digimon merchandises in the store. To my surprise, she asked her husband “Where’s that Digimon toy, again?” which led us to a box of ancient and complete Digimon Zero Two figurines!
Asna’s wish finally came true and in a box like this, I mean, where on earth can you find it these days! We got it for her and she was happy, but still said “I wish I could have a Patamon plush, too.” That, we can’t help.
After shopping, we went ahead and passed through the Hozomon gate. Admiring the temple and its surrounding.
Past the gate were a sort of burning well, where the locals would gather around to let their faces be covered by smoke as it’s believed to bring them good luck, a five-story pagoda and the main hall of the temple, where the locals would pray.
Here’s the place to get a piece of traditional temple in Tokyo and it’s one of the more livelier temples to go to. Even when you’re not keen on shopping for souvenirs, it’s worth the trip. The Sensō-ji is not the #15 most visited place in Tokyo for nothing.
To get here, exit Asakusa station (Tokyo Metro Ginza, Toei and Tobu Line) and head to the Kaminarimon Gate Exit.