Category Archives: Shops

Feel an Edo Atmosphere in Asakusa,Traditional Area in the Tokyo Metropolis!

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Public Domain


You can see the Senso-ji Temple and Mt. Fuji from the houseboat.

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See the Google Map of the Asakusa area!


Tokyo is a relatively new city compared with Kyoto and Nara with over a millennium of history. The full-scale development was launched more than 400 years ago. Then the city used to be called “Edo”. London or Paris has a longer tradition as a national capital.


Only one place in the metropolis can be dated back to the ancient times. The name is Senso-ji Temple. According to the legend, in 628 A.D. it is said that a statue of Buddha came to a fishing net in Sumida River. Fishermen enshrined it at a bumble dwelling-place which was the origin of the temple today. The formal establishment was in A.D. 645. The temple has a fairly long history.


It was lucky for the Buddha statue because the fishers was faithful. If I had been the fisher, I would have sell it on the Internet auction site. Of, course, the long distant past has little communication methods, let alone the Web.



Kaminari-mon Gate at Senso-ji Temple


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Kaminari-mon Gate



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Public Domain


Koūnosuke Matsushita



The international city, Tokyo, with a forest of high-rise buildings, attracts people from almost different countries. In the area particularly where embassies cluster, you don’t realize you walk in a street in Japan. However, Asakusa area has still a traditional atmosphere of the Edo period and is now a famous downtown representing Japan.


The Japanese language is difficult even for Japanese people (lol). The Kanji characters, 浅草, can be pronounced both as Asakusa and as Sensou. The gate of Senso-ji Temple is world-wide famous. The character described on the big lantern means “Thunder Gate”. It is because two deities, named “a wind deity and thunder deity”, drive away evil spirits to protect Buddhism. (See the reference. HOW TO APPRECIATE ANCIENT BUDDHIST TEMPLES IN JAPAN.) Although, in the middle of the 19th century, the gate was destroyed in a fire, it could be restored to its original state thanks to the large donation offered by Koūnosuke Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic Corporation.

So let’s pass through the gate.


Busy Shopping Street “Nakamise”

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Full view of the shopping street named “Nakamise”


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(Photo by (c) Tomo.Yun)





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(Photo by (c) Photo AC)


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This shopping street is situated inside the temple precincts. You may find it unexpectedly busy and often wonder whether the bustle contradicts religious dignity or not. Don’t worry, it’s no problem. It has been customary for Japanese to operate businesses in the front of temples and shrines. Commercial activities like this developed into some present urban cities in Japan.


Tokyo has uncountable sightseeing places. Of those, Nakamise is the must-place to visit. A wide variety of about 90 shops stand side by side. They include specialized shops offering folk art objects such as folded fans, umbrellas made only of bamboo and paper, hair accessories called “kanzashi”, Japanese dolls and original drawings of ukiyo-e as well as ordinary souvenir shops and small restaurants, of course. Some of such specialty stores can be seen only here, which is the attractive aspect of Nakamise. Please be careful that you will not remember to visit the temple because foods and shopping here are too fascinated.


On July 9th and 10th, the Japanese Lantern Plant Market is held every year. It is called “Hozuki Ichi” in Japanese. According to legend, the special days are said to have 46,000-day worth of merit. They are lucky days for me, a lazy fellow, but the event is so crowded with over five-hundred thousand people around Nakamise during the only two days.

Japanese lantern plants are decorated and sold. The color harmony of green and red must give you pleasure very much.


At Senso-ji Temple

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(Photo by (c) Photo AC)


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(Photo by (c) Photo AC)


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(Photo by (c) Tomo.Yun)


Main hall of Senso-ji Temple



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(Photo by (c) Tomo.Yun)


Five-storied pagoda



Passing through the first gate, Kaminari-mon and walking along the Nakamise Street, you find the second gate named “Hōzo-mon” (The Image 8). From here you enter the main sanctuary. However, it does not have a magnificent atmosphere that other temples create. Far from it, Senso-ji temple has an approachable air. Moreover it is interesting to compare the Image 8 with the 9. You can see the five-storied pagoda by the gate. In contrast, the Japanese highest tower, Tokyo Skytree™, catches your eyes in a similar composition like the Image 8. The tower, with a height of 634 meters (2,080-feet), was the newest sightseeing attraction which was completed in 2012. Some are more interested in the huge man-made structure than the temple itself, but I save the introduction for another time.


Tokyo offers the intriguing flip sides such as the world of ukiyo-e during the Edo period and present-day world-famous metropolis. The statue of Buddha incidentally discovered in the 7th century is now enshrined inside the main hall and concealed from the public view. The stature is an only witness who has been kept a long-term watch over the historical transition. Even Buddha may be surprised to see what the scenery is today.


Enjoy the Downtown, Asakusa area!

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Public Domain


Asakusa depicted in ukiyo-e during the Edo period



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(Photo by (c) Photo AC)


Asakusa’s streetscape


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(Photo by (c) フリー写真素材ぱくたそ)


Hana-Yashiki Amusement Park



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(Photo by (c) Photo AC)

15-スカイツリーを背景に 隅田川ライン

Sumida River Cruise



The central area of Tokyo is traditionally categorized into two areas. One is the uptown, Yamanote which is on the west side of the Imperial Palace. The other is the downtown, Shitamachi on the east side of that. Asakusa (A link to the location) in particular is nationally famous for the typical downtown area.


During the Edo period, the Asakusa area boasted famous kabuki theaters (The Image 12). Today, there is Asakusa Engei hall where comic story telling called “rakugo” or magic shows are performed. Traditional-looking streetscapes like the Image 13 still can be seen. Some people casually go out to Asakusa and other people live their daily lives in the downtown.


The oldest amusement park, named “Hana-Yashiki”, is located in this area. It does not set up the latest scary rides. The amusement attractions there are traditional and kid-friendly. Of course, Tokyo Disneyland is really fascinating. Hana-Yashiki may be called anachronism – or nostalgia. How do you feel about?


When you are get tired of the urban area, how about enjoying “Sumida River Cruise? In springs, you can view a long row of cherry blossom trees on the banks and a number of high rises behind the natural beauty. Amid a spring breeze, the contrast between beautiful nature and man-made objects is picturesque.


Asakusa on New Year’s Day


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On the New Year’s Day at Senso-ji temple



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(Photo by (c) Photo AC)


A kite saying New Year’s Greetings


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(Photo by (c) Photo AC)


Nakamise Shopping Street decorated for New Year’s holidays



Now we come back to Nakamise Street again. The Image 17 is the streetscape during the New Year holidays. It has been customary for Japanese people to pay the first visit of the year to Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines. At twelve midnight when the New Year starts, numerous temples and shrines all aver Japan are very crowded with worshipers.


The ranking as to which shrine or temple attracts how many visitors is the first news of the year. Meiji-jingu Shrine located in the uptown area, Yamanote, ranks the first every year, drawing over 3,13million people. In the same year, Senso-ji temple ranks 4th, drawing 2,83million people.


People make New Year wishes for health, happiness and peace. I will pray for peace and safety for my dear readers on the next New Year’s Day.