Japan is divided into many different prefectures and wards. Did you know that Japan has a total of 47 prefectures? The Tokyo Metropolis is only one of them. Within each prefecture are wards, but the ones located inside Tokyo Metropolis are referred to as “Special Wards”. You can somewhat liken them to boroughs that are found in western countries. One of these wards – Taito – was established on the 15th of March, 1947. It used to be known as the Yoshiwara quarter back when Tokyo used to be called Edo. Inside the ward of Taito lies the district Asakusa. Though it comprises merely a fragment of the metropolis, Asakusa has a rich narrative. Its past has been tainted with stories much like other famous entertainment districts of other countries have. As it stands today, Asakusa still boasts of many wonderful attractions and festivals both locals and tourists enjoy very much.
The History Behind Asakusa, Tokyo
You’ll notice that Asakusa may have a more retro vibe to it compared to its more progressive and modern neighbors – that is because this part of Tokyo had already been developed very early on. It’s part of an area that’s called “Shitamachi”, which is literally translated to “under city”; literally pertaining to a part of Tokyo that is less elevated than the rest.
During the Edo period, Asakusa was used as a pleasure district. This means that it had everything from geisha houses to kabuki theaters. It was known hold one of Tokyo’s red light districts and would develop to contain other forms of entertainment, such as movie houses/cinemas. The reason there was such a boom during this period was because of the extra income the rice-keepers at Kuramae spent from selling their surplus rice supplies to people around that area. Kuramae was a place right beside Asakusa that was used to store rice that would be turned over to the staff of the government at that time. Because the rice-keepers were selling so much rice to the shopkeepers and making quite a bit of money, they spent their money on mostly entertainment and pleasure.
Sadly, all the entertainment establishments were all lost during the second world war. The bull of air raids completely tore down almost everything in this area of Asakusa, and the following attempts at reconstruction did not hold a candle to the fame it once held during the earlier half of the 20th century. Other districts in Tokyo have since occupied the title as the metropolis’ pleasure district, leaving only some pieces of cherished memories of the old Asakusa. Not everything was lost, however. Many temples and shrines were reconstructed and still carry an accurate resemblance of what they used to look like.
The Most Popular Temple in Asakusa
Asakusa Kannon Temple, otherwise called “Sensoji”, is one of the most famous and colorful ancient Buddhist temples in Asakusa, and possibly in all of Tokyo. It Tokyo’s oldest temple, and has a significant emblematic reason for existing. It was built in 645 AD, and is accompanied by a legend around its construction: brothers named and Hinokuma Takenari and Hinokuma Hamanari were fishing back in 628 and discovered a tiny golden statuette of Kannon (Buddhist deity of mercy) was caught up in their net. Deeming it insignificant, they threw away the statue – only to find it again. When they noticed that the statue kept resurfacing after they had thrown it away so many times, they took this matter up to the chieftain of their village (who happened to be a devout Buddhist). He then took this as a divine sign and turned his home into a temple devoted to that statue of Kannon.
A thousand years later, when Tokyo was still known as Edo, its powerful leader Ieyasu wanted to protect his land from any attacks by possible invaders. Although he had manpower with him, a little bit of help from spiritual forces was always welcome. He thus assigned temples near places that were most likely to be infiltrated by his enemies as family temples. The Zozoji temple in Shiba was symbolized to defend the southwestern side of Tokyo, while this temple defended the northeastern side.
Bombs dropped from the second world war destroyed this temple, but it was rebuilt in honor of starting anew. Another symbolic aspect of this is the regrowth of an old tree in the temple’s courtyard that was severely damaged due to the ruthless shelling. The temple has since been visited by millions of tourists and worshippers, especially during the Sanja-Matsuri festival that happens towards the end of Spring.
About The Famous Asakusa Shrine
The Asakusa Shrine, unlike the Kannon Temple, caters to Shintoism. Shintoism focuses majorly on honoring people of the past – so that doesn’t mean that these landmarks are unrelated; this shrine is dedicated to the three men who had founded the Sensoji. The Asakusa Shrine also goes by the name Sanja-sama, which means “Shrine of the Three Gods”. It was founded in 1649 by Tokugawa lemitsu. While you may be familiar with the two men who stumbled upon the statuette, the third man that this shrine honors was Haji no Nakatomo. He was a rich Buddhist landlord during that time, and after finding out more about the incident of the recurring statuette and the brothers inspired them through his teachings about Buddha to also convert to that religion. The brothers were so inspired by what they learned from Tokugawa lemitsu that they ended up preaching about Buddhism for the rest of their lives. This shrine also participates in the celebration of the Shinto festival, Sanja-Matsuri.
Asakusa and Sushi - The Gastronomic Hunt
When it comes to exceptional sushi, restaurants are usually hit and miss – most especially in Japan. One would expect everything in this culinary genre to taste great because it is the land of sushi. Then again, that doesn’t mean to say that the sushi they serve in Japan isn’t good – many of them are just okay. When you want exceptional sushi that you’ll feel happy you spent a good amount of money on, you have to do your research. Luckily, you’ve stumbled upon the right article. There are three amazing restaurants in Asakusa you should try if you find yourself around this area. They are namely “Sushi Zammai Asakusa Kaminarimon”, “Sushizanmai Ueno”, and “Sushi-Nova Asakusa Shin-Nakamise”. In Sushi Zammai, reviews liken the freshness and succulence of their fish to the ones found in Tsukiji market. The cost of lunch for two people would amount to around 2000 yen. As for Sushizanmai Ueno, their fatty tuna is exalted as heavenly – and the fact that you can have this any time of the day (they’re open 24 hours) is even better. These privileges (along with the fact servers speak a little English) come with a literal price. Simple sushi sets here are under 2000 yen, so expect to pay a little more than usual. But if you’re ready to cough up the cash, then you’re in the right place. Next up is Sushi-Nova. Scoring a 4 out of 5 in reviews on TripAdvisor, this restaurant gives you bang for your buck when it comes to quality sushi. If you’re on a budget but still want great food, this is your option to pick.
Fort Wayne’s Take on Asakusa: Indiana’s Best Japanese Restaurant
So just how good is the sushi in Asakusa? Well, if its name makes its way all the way to Indiana, then it should be delicious. The restaurant is simply called “Asakusa’ and is found in Fort Wayne. It’s ranked as 33rd best out of the 534 restaurants in Fort Wayne, close to 5 stars in the overall dining experience. Not only do its reviews call it the best sushi nook in the Midwest, many of them swear by the freshness of each roll, and the friendliness of their service. If sushi isn’t your thing, Asakusa offers other dishes too, such as tempura and teriyaki chicken. This restaurant keeps the reputation of Asakusa untarnished; an authentic place to enjoy good food.
Asakusa Imahan – Next On The List of Tasty Bistros
Last, but not least, is the Asakusa Imahan. What’s epic about this restaurant are their shabu-shabu and beef. If there are nearly 4,000 bistros in Taito, this one turns up as 6th best. That’s a feat to recognize, and with stellar reviews spilling out of every customer who’s eaten here. You probably won’t want to share your portion. If you get the chance to make a reservation in this highly-acclaimed restaurant – grab it.
Which Is The Best Hotel In Asakusa?
There are three hotels that you may want to have a look at if you plan to stay around the Asakusa area. These hotels are namely Hotel Mystays Asakusa-bashi, Asakusa View Hotel, and Richmond Hotel Premier Asakusa International. These are three hotels in Asakusa that will give you the best value for your money, though they do vary a bit in terms of their characteristics. The best hotel is subjective because everyone’s wants and affordability levels are different. If you’re looking for a place just to sleep and don’t want the extra bells and whistles, Hotel Mystays Asakusa-bashi is a decent option. Costing under 10,000 yen a night for a spacious twin bedroom, you’ll surely get your money’s worth in terms of comfortability and quiet. It’s also got a great location; it’s right beside the Asakusabashi station, which saves you transportation time. In Asakusa View Hotel, you get a little bit of everything for a mid-range price. Buffet breakfast is included in a night’s stay, and it is reported to be scrumptious. Not only is their breakfast good, but the view is spectacular. This is a popular choice among many of those who travel, and a room with one double bed would cost you a little more around 10,000 yen. Lastly, Richmond Hotel Premier Asakusa International is the option to pick if you don’t mind spending just a little bit more for bigger rooms. Unlike the other hotels, this one sports a more modern motif. It’s also got nonsmoking areas, is impeccably clean and is located near the subway, as well as many other establishments.
Asakusa Station: Getting On The Right Line
Existing even before the second world war, the Asakusa station is known as one of the oldest underground stations in all of Tokyo, having been built in 1927. It sports a rose colored legend, this line is labeled with the letter A, followed by numbers that dictate the station. Today, three different railways operate this station, namely Toei Subway, Tobu Railway, and Tokyo Metro. This means it has three lines that you can use to connect to other lines; the Tobu Skytree Line – which is coded as “TS-01”, the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line “G-19”, the Toei Asakusa Line “A-18”, and the Tsukuba Express. You can use these lines to get to and from the airport. The Toei and Tobu stations are not connected to each other, so if ever you find yourself having to switch from one of these lines to the other, you must do this by foot. In case you want to access the Tokyo Metro station, it’s found towards the southern section of Tobu terminal.
Overall, Asakusa is a charming testament to the older days of Tokyo. Aside from the hotels, restaurants, and shrines that were recommended for you to visit, there are a series of other sites and places to visit in this district. Nakamise Shopping Street is the best place to go to find souvenirs for a friend or family member. Rox Department store and Kappabashi Shopping Street are there for the rest of your needs and offer top quality Japanese products and brands. If that isn’t your thing, you can head to Sumida Park to relax, or to Rokku Entertainment District to watch a show. It really doesn’t matter where you come from, what age you are, or what interests you have – Asakusa has been a place of entertainment ever since, and it will continue to entertain its tourists and locals.