Asakusa—an area centered around Sensoji Temple with its Thunder Gate and Nakamise shopping street—is surrounded by water and immersed in rich tradition. Take in riverside views, hop on a boat for a riverside cruise, or stroll the traditional streets filled with stalls and authentic souvenir shops selling quintessentially Japanese goods. Visit Asakusa to experience true Japanese traditions, arts and crafts, and take a little piece home with you.
Asakusa Station is on Tokyo Metro's Ginza, Toei Asakusa and Tobu Skytree lines. The boarding pier for the waterbus is just a three-minute walk from Asakusa Station.
From Haneda Airport: Around one hour 20 minutes by Limousine Bus, or 50 minutes by train.
From Narita Airport: Around two hours 10 minutes by Limousine Bus, or one hour 25 minutes by train.
From Shinjuku Station: Take the JR Chuo Line to Kanda Station and transfer to the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line for Asakusa. Travel time: 35 minutes.
From Tokyo Station: Take the JR Yamanote Line to Kanda Station and transfer to the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line for Asakusa. Travel time: 20 minutes.
Approaching the temple, you will be met by a hulking red gate adorned with a giant red lantern daubed with large kanji characters. While it may seem like a stage setting from a time gone by, this is the backdrop awaiting your camera lens at Asakusa's largest temple, Sensoji. Step through Kaminarimon—the Thunder Gate—and wander through the lively and extensive Nakamise shopping street, stopping off to pick up some authentic souvenirs on your way to the temple's striking main hall. Tradition continues outside the temple grounds. Drop by the retro theme park of Asakusa Hanayashiki for a ride on one of the quaint attractions and buy a ticket for a show at the traditional Japanese arts showcase theater of Asakusa Engei Hall. No English is available, but for full immersion into Japanese traditional culture try out one of the Japanese rakugo storytelling performances.
Asakusa is a town of water. It sits on the mighty Sumida River, and many landmark buildings line the banks. Head to the striking red Azuma-bashi Bridge for views of towering Tokyo Skytree and brews at the Asahi Beer Hall inside the Asahi Group Headquarter Building with its Philippe Starck-designed golden sculpture adorning the roof. For a taste of the city from the water, board the uniquely sculpted Hotaluna waterbus—from the creative mind of Japanese cartoonist Leiji Matsumoto—for a cruise up the river. The pier is located close to Asakusa Station, and it is possible to take trips to Hinode Pier, Odaiba Marine Park, the Hama-rikyu Gardens and Toyosu.
Asakusa is a great place to get hold of some original Japanese souvenirs. Nakamise is filled with small stalls selling a wide range of products. Pick up a T-shirt adorned with kanji characters or a traditional fan, a mask or a wooden kokeshi doll—some distinctive reminders of your Tokyo trip—and fill up on traditional snacks and sweets baked right in front of you. If you want to explore the world of Japanese traditional crafts, head to Marugoto Nippon, which has four floors of local craft and culture, or Kappabashi Kitchenware Town for professional-level kitchen utensils and the unnervingly real-looking food samples.