Easily making it in to our 'Essential Exploring' list is the world famous Sensoji Temple, and environs. No doubt at some point in your life you've seen photos of either the Nakamise Dori or Kamimarimon Gate. This well preserved area is a national treasure and a terrific place to experience.
The first thing that will strike you is the sheer size of the Kamimarimon Gate. The Cho Ching (big hanging red ball with black Chinese characters written on it) itself is about 8 feet high. One after another, groups of visitors take turns getting their picture taken with this fantastic backdrop.
Kimono and Tea Snacks to Pokémon key chains and Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals, the nine hundred and fifty feet of Nakamise Dori has plenty of old world charm plus modern bunk.
The paving stone road, Japanese lanterns, and architecture of the building structure make this one of the most ‘Japanese’ looking markets in Tokyo.
The shops start ‘waking up’ around 9:00am, and is in full swing by 10:00am. Students on field trips, packs of Chinese tourists, a dash of westerner’s, and local residents crowd the street.
While the shops certainly are diverse, the most recurring ones are:
- Traditional Japanese Snacks
- Traditional Japanese Food stands
- Traditional Japanese clothing
After you make your way to the end of Nakamise, through the crowds of school girls and old folks you’ll find standing directly in front of you the massive Hozo mon Gate, even bigger than the Kaminarmimon Gate at the entrance. The second floor holds a rare cache of 14th century Chinese artifacts, but these are not available for public viewing, shucks!
Immediately to the left of the Hozo-mon Gate stands the terribly impressive Five Story Pagoda.
Directly in front of the main hall, the street is lined with three stores, selling talismans, good luck charms, scrolls and scripts in great quantity. And between stands the Grand Incense Burner, never without a knot of visitors crowding around it.
The main attraction of Sensoji. The inside of the temple is dark. The air is thick with incense. The walls are heavily embroidered with gold. The back wall is screened revealing a back room where the God’s idol dwells. The visitors stand in front, make their prayers and pay homage.
Surrounded by a trees and a charming garden, (complete with two foot bridges, a waterfall and a small river) the Yougoudo Hall provides a more intimate and quiet setting in contrast to the bustle of Nakamise-dori.
Further left from the Main Hall lies Awashima Hall, a small temple with a spacious courtyard.
Further right from the Main hall stands the Asakusa Jinja, an attractive temple with a very wide front courtyard, and large stone torii at the entrance.
Sensoji is the perfect opportunity to sample some traditional Japanese cooking, and take advantage of foods you can find nowhere else.
Bean-jam buns (150 yen~)
Resembling large round chicken nuggets, these buns are a must. They come with a variety of fillings:
- Plain - 120
- Green Tea (macha) - 170
- Pumpkin - 170
- Sweet Potato - 170
- Sesame - 170
- Cherry (sakura) - 200
Soft served ice cream (250 yen~)
- Green tea
- Green tea + vanilla
Shaved ice cream (300 yen~)
Found in Japan and Taiwan this treat is made by vendors taking a block of solid icy ice cream, (more icy than creamy) and then with a manual crank, shave of thin layers repeatedly until what you have is practically a mound of freshly fallen snow, but in shavings; very unique. It is then topped with syrup of your choice.
- Lemon Soda
- Green tea
- White syrup
JR Yamanote Line to Ueno, transfer to Ginza Line, get off at Asakusa Station.