Autumn hits Tokyo much later than in most parts of Japan. In the first week of December we still experienced maximums in the mid-teens (Celcius). That was just enough to turn the leaves yellow.
We were on a visit to Ueno Park, a few subway stops away from Asakusa. It’s one of Tokyo’s cultural precincts with a dozen museums, temples, sports facilities, even a zoo. But many people that day were there to view the leaves.
Asakusa is truly a place that hardly ever sleeps. There are thousands of shops/bars/restaurants squeezed into one square kilometre, and they open until really late. This photo was taken at around 10pm on the main street.
Aside from Nakamise, there are other shopping streets/malls that bisect it. This one had its Christmas decorations already up in early December.
And beside it all is the Sumida River. It’s the reason that Asakusa became the prime entertainment district, since the docks were nearby. And even though the docks have moved out into the bay, and there are larger entertainment/shopping districts around, Asakusa still lives on.
Let’s take a break for lunch at a soba noodle restaurant. They’re a common sight in this part of Tokyo – and given that the district has one of the most popular tourist attractions, and thousands of shops to boot, it’s the done thing too go sightseeing, shopping and then eat these noodles. This restaurant was literally 50 metres from our hotel, and has a very traditional entrance.
Soba noodles are made out of buckwheat and wheat flours, and has a delicate taste. The best ones are handmade, and having once tried my hand at making it, I know that it’s no easy thing to do.
They can be eaten hot, in soup, or cold, dipped in a soy and mirin sauce. Ours was accompanied by diced raw tuna.
A delicious, light lunch.
The temple at Asakusa is the one place on every tourist’s itinerary when they visit Tokyo. It’s certainly been on mine – I had been there on each of my two visits to Tokyo – but I’d never stayed there. This time we were literally a hop-skip-jump away from the temple, in one of the many side streets of Asakusa. Here, you can see the essence of old Tokyo – a warren of narrow, tightly packed streets.
If the streets of Asakusa represented old Tokyo, then Sky Tree (the tower behind), represented new Tokyo. So new in fact that it wasn’t there on my 2006 visit. Given that the tower was over 600 metres tal, and the surrounding suburbs were generally low-rise, you could see the Sky Tree from anywhere in Asakusa.
From the temple.
From the river nearby, day and night.
Unfortunately, this was another instance where Hubby’s acrophobia kicked in, especially when he heard that you ascended via a glass lift (echoes of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator), hence I only ever got to admire it from afar.
Aside from the temple, Asakusa is famous for its shopping street, Nakamise, which leads up to the temple. It’s busy all the time! This shot was taken before 9am, and there were school kids on excursion already.
The street has all manner of shops, from street food, souvenirs, clothes, toys, even kitchen knives.
Night time was just as busy. The main gate, Kaminarimon, was busy even at 9pm.
And those school kids were still roaming around at that time, too!
Our Japan journey is nearing its end, and the last place we visited was the great metropolis of Tokyo. We stayed in the district of Asakusa, in the old part of Tokyo, famous for Sensou-Ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple.
As you can see, it’s a major tourist attraction, but it has all the essentials of a Buddhist temple, such as decorated lanterns.
And a smoking cauldron in which to purify yourself – or take selfies in front of.