A 1-Day Sightseeing Course to Experience the Shitamachi Atmosphere Departing from Asakusa
Popular among foreign tourists! Asakusa is probably the tourist spot most representative of Japan. Here is a sightseeing course where you can experience for yourself, as much as you want, the nostalgic atmosphere of the working class districts called shitamachi, starting from Asakusa.
The first thing that comes to mind upon hearing the word "Asakusa" is that it is a popular sightseeing location, but within Asakusa, there are also other famous attractions like Sensoji or Kaminarimon. After you have taken a picture here to commemorate your start of this sightseeing course, you should move on to Nakamise-dori, the oldest shopping district that has existed since the Edo period. Head to Sensoji while shopping for your souvenirs and trying some of the food on sale. For people with a sweet tooth, try the ningyoyaki (small cake that looks like a face) or kibidango (millet dumplings). For people who prefer something more salty, the freshly-made senbei (rice cracker) is a must-try!
If you walk down straight from Nakamise-dori, you will see Sensoji, the tourist attraction most representative of Asakusa. Constructed in the year 628, Sensoji is the oldest temple in Tokyo. There are many places of interest here, such as the treasure vault of important cultural treasures Hozomon, the main hall where the principal statue is housed, and the five-story pagoda. As you stand in front of the main hall, cleanse your mind and body with the smoke from the incense burner before you pray for your heart's wishes to come true.
After paying your respects at Sensoji, it is now time to head on to Kappabashi-dougu Street, 10 minutes away by foot, and the largest kitchen-related shopping street in Japan. You can find wax food models that look so realistic you could eat them, cutlery, kitchen, and cooking tools in this street that stretches 800 meters and is home to over 170 different stores. There is probably nothing that you cannot find here! If you just take a quick glance and go, it will only take you about an hour to finish looking around Kappabashi-dougu Street, but if you'd like to slow down and take a closer look, you might never finish! Wax food models and kitchen knives are popular as souvenirs here.
After you have satisfied yourself with Kappabashi-dougu Street, head to Tawaramachi Station, a 5-minute walk away. Board the train and you'll arrive at Ueno Station in 3 minutes. If you walk a little further, you will see Ueno Ameyoko, a shopping and gourmet paradise with a Showa atmosphere. Over 400 stores are lined up along this 500 meter stretch of road that is between Okachimachi and Ueno Stations.
After having lunch and taking a break at one of the restaurants of your choosing, take about an hour to stroll around and enjoy the atmosphere of Ueno Ameyoko, while browsing through the snacks, dried goods, fresh produce, clothes, and shoes stores in this area, which might take the whole day for a full tour.
Next, we move on to Shitamachi Museum, a 5 minute walk away from Ueno Ameyoko. This museum was established to teach future generations about the bygone culture of the shitamachi. The exhibits on display here, such as the rotary dial phone, or artifacts from the Meiji and Showa period, depict the lives of people living in that era, and provides a very important lesson and experience.
Admission Fees: 300 JPY for adults, 100 JPY for elementary to senior high school students.
Of course, sightseeing in Japan is never complete without a visit to a shrine. To get there, walk 7 minutes from Shitamachi Museum to Yushima Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, board the train for 4 minutes, alight at Sendagi Station, then walk 7 minutes to get to Nezu Shrine. This ancient shrine is said to have opened over 1900 years ago, and is also famous for its azaleas. Within the shrine grounds, there is another shrine called the Omote Inari Shrine, and the torii-lined pathway leading to Omote Inari Shrine is worth a look. You can also enjoy the shitamachi atmosphere in the nearby areas of Sendagi and Nezu.
Yanaka Ginza Shopping District
Next, if you walk 13 minutes from Nezu Shrine, you will arrive at Yanaka Ginza Shopping District. Just like the Sendagi and Nezu areas, this place is overflowing with the shitamachi atmosphere. Most of the 70 stores in this 170 meter long shopping street here are mom and pop stores. There are lots of food stores here, and you can buy some croquettes, menchi katsu (fried cutlet made of ground meat), or doughnuts, and eat as you walk. If you walk away from the retro-Showa shopping district and climb up the famous Yuyake Dandan staircase, don't forget to take a look behind you. If you are lucky, you might get a perfect view of the setting sun!
Exploring Around Asakusa Station
Finally, make your way back to Asakusa. If you walk 6 minutes from Yanaka Ginza Shopping District, you will arrive at Nippori Station along the JR Yamanote Line. Take the train to Ueno Station, transfer to the Metro Ginza Line, and you should arrive at Asakusa Station in 15 minutes. There are many famous and established stores around Asakusa that have been loved by the locals since a long time ago. If you want a wholesome meal, why don't you try the western diner Yoshikami, or if you're up for some tempura, what about Tempura Daikokuya? For lovers of alcohol, try the Kamiya Bar, whose specialty cocktail Denki Bran has over 100 years of history.
What did you think about this sightseeing course? There are also many other places to see besides the ones introduced in this article! Please refer to this article to complete your shitamachi experience!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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