Terakoya was a private school run by a temple where local children received elementary education in the Edo period. Almost all the kids in town would learn reading, writing and calculation. Thanks to this highly efficient educational system, Edo people’s literacy rate was said to be from 70% up to 90%, the figure unusually high among the cities at the same time in the world.
Today you can visit our Asakusa Terakoya, an information center for international visitors, and experience the reminiscence of this tradition. English-speaking receptionists greet you with a wealth of information and tips to enjoy the town. There is a cafe on the ground floor where you can meet fellow visitors while you taste Japanese tea or sake (the latter served on late hours only)
There is also a workshop/lecture room upstairs. You can enroll in various hands-on programs (like Kimono dressing and musical instrument playing) to learn Edo history and cultures. Just drop in. It expands your perspectives and enriches your Asakusa experience. - Asakusa Terakoya; open 10:00 to 18:00
In 1842, Edo shogunate ordered what was then the three major Kabuki theaters in Edo to move their operations to Asakusa. This relocation was the beginning of the golden era of Kabuki. It is now difficult to understand how enthusiastic people of Edo were about Kabuki. Perhaps Kabuki actors were equivalent to The Beatles and playwrights were like Shakespeare.
You can witness the remnants of this enthusiasm if you visit Denbouin Street next to Senso-ji temple. Among the facade of shops, puppets depicting famous protagonists from Kabuki plays are posing for the bystanders. If you can name all of them, you must be an expert of Kabuki.
Among those characters are the members of the popular thief group called “Shiranami Gonin Otoko (White Wave Fivesome).” Adventures of the FAB “5” is encapsulated in a legendary Kabuki play titled “Aoto Zōshi Hana no Nishiki-e” a.k.a. ”Benten Kozo.” It was written by Mokuami Kawatake, the local super playwright, and premiered by Ichimura-za in 1862.
Villains are always popular as main characters in Kabuki. The humanity and free spirits of those Kabuki heroes are the crystallization of the zeitgeist of the late Edo period.
Do you want to ride on the 60 year old creaky, vintage roller-coaster? If so, go straight to Hanayashiki, the amusement park next to Senso-ji temple. The thrilling attraction is arguably the oldest roller-coaster in Japan. The whole atmosphere of the park, probably not changed much since its launch in 1853, is also extremely nostalgic (as you can imagine, it is indeed the oldest amusement park in Japan) and you feel like you have time traveled into your grand parents era. Admission ¥1,000 plus a ticket for the ride ¥500 per adult.
Like cockney English of downtown London, there was (and still is, especially among elder people) a distinguished speaking style of Edo people.
For example, a typical Edokko cannot pronounce the consonant “h,” and instead it sounds like “sh.” So when they try to say “higashi” (east), they sound like “shigashi.” The sound of “ai” ”ae” and “oi” all sound like “eh.” So “daikon” (radish) sounds like “dehkon.” Similarly “kaimono” (shopping) sounds like “kehmono.”
There are many other variations such as “oppajimeru” (normally “hajimeru” which means “to start”) or “mattsugu” (normally “massugu” meaning “straight”). When you say “watashi” (I, the first person), Edokko tends to say “attashi” (omitting “w”). Listen carefully how people of Asakusa speak to you. You might be able to recognize their accent.
The Gate Hotel Kaminarion is located just one block from the famous gate of Asakusa. Styled by Shigeru Uchida, the prominent designer. 136 rooms. - The Gate Hotel Kaminarion, 2-16-11 Kaminarimon / Check-in 14:00 Check-out 11:00 Tel. 03-5826-3877
Kaminarimon now (left) and then (right, by Hiroshige Utagawa)
In Asakusa, there are some locations where you can compare the landscape with the scenes from famous “ukiyoe” (traditional Japanese prints from the early modern period). Take Kaminarimon gate. The scene No. 99 of “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo” by Hiroshige (1797 – 1858) recreates a breathtaking winter landscape of Kaminarimon, which strikingly resembles the view in front of you.
Skytree is the latest addition to the many landmarks in Tokyo. The 634m high broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower is located in the adjacent Sumida Ward. From Kaminarimon, it is a pleasant 20 minute walk across Sumida River. But if you want the best composition for your selfie photo with Skytree in the background, we recommend you to visit 1,400 year old Matsuchiyama-shoden, one of the most popular “power-spot” temples under Senso-ji umbrella, which perches on the bank of Sumida River. Radish and purse, for some mystically secular reasons, are the two symbols of the temple. Adding Skytree to its mythology, it now gives you a perfect taste of Japanese mixology.
The block Mokubakan Theater now stands flourished as a funfair site during the early 20th century. Mokubakan (which means “carousel house”) started as a private insect museum in 1907 and later became a carousel house, then a cinema, a music hall, and a strip-tease club. Now it hosts musicals and revues, emanating a nostalgic atmosphere of the last century. They are really enjoyable. Don’t worry about the language. You can manage to follow the story even if you don’t understand a single word. Admission: ¥1,600 for adult.
Public WiFi services in Japan are somehow fragmented and not entirely user-friendly. It always causes frustrations among visitors from overseas. But here in Asakusa, you have a free public WiFi. Yeah. Thanks Asakusa. Open the WiFi setting on your smartphone and look for the available access points.
For our Asakusa Beacon and Junaio AR apps, you need the Internet connections. So connect your device to the Asakusa WiFi hotspot!
One of the best ways to absorb Edo style in Asakusa is to put on an authentic Kimono (traditional Japanese robe) and stroll around the town in a truly authentic Edo fashion. At Asakusa Terakoya, the visitor information center, they offer Kimono dressing and rental services. You can enjoy Kimono cosplay in the next few hours. So go out and start walking along Nakamise-dori, then visit Senso-ji, ride on a rickshaw, take lots of selfies or whatever you want. - Kimono dressing and rental at Asakusa Terakoya.
Visit Taiko Kan, the Drum Instrument Museum. You can not only witness various kinds of percussions from all over the world, but also play most of them and hear the sound. The museum is housed on the upper floor of Miyamotounosuke Shoten, Taiko and festival instruments store. - Taiko Kan, open 10:00 to 17:00 / Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission: ¥500 for adult. Tel. 03-3842-5622
A boutique hotel behind Senso-ji precinct, Via Inn Asakusa welcomes you in a comfortable atmosphere of Asakusa. 190 rooms. - Via Inn Asakusa, 2-33-7 Asakusa / Check-in 15:00 Check-out 10:00 Tel. 03-6895-5489
Among a myriad of gods, angels and guardians inhibiting in numerous temples and shrines in Asakusa, Meoto-komainu, a guardian dog couple, in Asakusa-jinja shrine is really unique and significant. The pair of male and female guardian dogs (or lions) is of unknown origin, but nobody doubts what their blessing is. It is believed to bring luck for lovers and partners.
Install Junaio Augmented Reality Browser ( http://www.junaio.com/download/ ) to your smartphone, and you can explore Asakusa more deeply with the service’s online annotations on local sites and landmarks. Look through the app at this divine dog pair, and you will get more information on their history. Try to browse the other part of the Asakusa-jinja shrine, too. It is a treasure trove of local myths.
The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa is a novel by the Nobel laureate author Yasunari Kawabata. Published in 1930, the novel about a girl and her vengeance against a man revolves around colorful people of Asakusa set in late 1920s. It illustrates the society and cultures of its time very vividly. Mock documentary style narrative with a modernist touch is also fun to read. After reading the book, your perception of the town won’t be the same. The English translation is available on bookstores. (or go to Amazon - http://amzn.com/0520241827 )
Summer in Edo was as hot and humid as it is now in Tokyo. The traditional pastime of people of Asakusa is to finish work early and cool themselves at the bank of Sumida River. Named as Sumida Park now, the riverside is a great refreshment for visitors, too. Do not miss cherry blossoms (end of March) and Fireworks (July). There are many other events throughout the year.
Asakusa prospered around Senso-ji temple, with its origin going back to the early 7th centuries. Later designated by the Edo Shogunate as an official prayer site for Shogun as well as people of Edo. Since then, more and more prayer sites flourished in this area.
Now there seems to be infinite number of prayer sites and so called “power spots” in Asakusa. The most famous is Senso-ji, of course. Then comes “Shichi Fuku Jin (Seven Fortune Gods)” which are scattered around the town, so people visit one after the other to complete their one-day divine favor tour. Asakusa is, indeed, a department store for holy blessings.
Even in Senso-ji, there are several prayer spots. Find out where they are by using Junaio AR browser on your smartphone.
If you have an iPhone or Android smartphone, the first thing you do in the morning of your Asakusa excursion day is to install Asakusa Beacon app on your smartphone (available for iOS and Android devices). Don’t forget to allow the app to keep track of your geo location data and show an notification on your smartphone screen when the app is not running.
Once on the street, if you get near one of the 70 prominent shops or restaurants which we recommend, your smartphone gives you an alert and the app shows you the information of the shop or restaurant with a photo, short description, opening hours, holiday info, price quotes and even a 30 second introduction video.
Non-Japanese speakers sometimes feel awkward about entering shops and restaurants because of the language barriers, but not anymore with this app. Enjoy Asakusa with Asakusa Beacon!
Sekai Cafe (“Sekai” means World) is the gathering spot for international visitors. Vegetarian/organic foods and halal dishes. Free WiFi. Power socket for each table. - Sekai Cafe, open 10:00 to 22:00 throughout the year. Tel. 03-6802-7300 http://sekai-cafe.com
You can find anything related to kitchen at Kappabashi street. Literally anything. From kitchen utensils to restaurant furniture, if you are going to open a new diner, real or imaginary, this is the place to go. Oh don’t forget, you must check the world famous plastic display food, too (yes, we are talking about what you could see in front of many cafes and restaurants around Asakusa).
“Kappa” is a sort of mythical amphibian monster appearing in the Japanese folklore. According to the local legend, the original developer of the area is a guy named Kihachi Kappaya (a bit confusing, but he is human). He worked so hard that the local Kappa monsters gathered for him to help developing the area. The tomb of Kappaya, the human guy, is kept in nearby temple called Sogenji (nicknamed “Kappa Temple”).
Fire, air, water and earth are the four elements of the Universe according to the ancient Greeks. On the other hand, epicureans in Asakusa claims Soba, Sushi, Tempura and Unagi are the four elements of Edo’s gastronomic Universe. Try one of these, and you will find another Universe in each of them. The Japanese food in its own best. Simple, but so rich and profound.
Its simplicity is derived from the origin. All those four dishes were originally served at food stalls (Yatai) on the streets in Edo period.
There are so many restaurants in Asakusa. So the question is, which one should one try? The answer is inside this leaflet. In page 2 and 3, you will find some of the most authentic restaurants serving those four gastronomic elements as well as the other popular dishes such as Sukiyaki and Ramen. Enjoy!
Asakusa hosts various festivals and events throughout the year. From Hagoita-ichi (battledore market) to Samba Carnival, they are all unique and unforgettable moments for tourists. For the detailed information on those events, please check our homepage. - http://asakusa-i.tokyo
New year prayers
Bean Scattering Ceremony
Golden Dragon Dance
Rising and Resting Ceremony
Edo-Style Horseback Archery
Sengen Jinja Festival
Hozuki-ichi (Chinese Lantern Plant Fair)
Sumida River Fireworks Display Contest
Noh play by torchlight
Asakusa Samba Canival
Comedy Film Festival
Golden Dragon Dance
Tori no Ichi
Tokyo Jidai Festival
New Year's Eve Bell
Ranked No.1 in the business hotel category by Japanese Customer Satisfaction Index in 2014. Super Hotel Asakusa is perhaps the best in price-performance ratio. 112 rooms - Super Hotel Asakusa, 2-33-1 Asakusa / Check-in 15:00 Check-out 10:00 Tel. 03-5806-9000
There is a book called Edo Kaimono Hitori Annai (solo shopper’s guide for Edo). It was published in 1824 and has been regarded as the best guidebook for shoppers in Edo period. It is now a wonderful resource for historians and social anthropologists. It documented around 2,600 merchants, shops, wholesalers and restaurants in Edo of the time, with all the basic data such as trademarks and addresses, even some cool illustrations, too (for those who most probably paid generously to the publisher)
The book reveals the fact that Edo was indeed a metropolitan city in its own style, with all kinds of businesses and economic activities you can think of. From wig makers to artificial-tooth sellers, or from tobacconists to fireman’s hood wholesalers, the list is never ending. The book comes with three volumes and the third (last) one is exclusively for foods and restaurants.
You cannot carry it with you all the time when you walk around the town of Asakusa. So we recommend you to take this Zanmai Times, together with the Asakusa Beacon and Junaio AR apps in your smartphone. Now you are ready to explore the town!
Edokko - townsfolk of Edo - is often characterized as being good-spirited, warm-hearted, but short-tempered, having sweet spots for quarrels and fireworks, always sympathizing towards underdogs. Most of them lived under one roof (sort of row houses). If you are a newcomer, you would end up renting a room, futon and even daily necessities, starting your Edo life right away. It is an easy-come, easy-go system.
You could learn skills from your master and perhaps become independent one day. The city life is tough to survive, but somebody would help you. At first, they might be cold against you, but at the end of the day, Edokko likes to help each other.
They like to take care of kids, too, regardless of their upbringing. People are more or less equal. That is the mentality of merchants and craftsmen in Edo city. If you encounter such a specimen in Asakusa, most probably he or she would be a true heir to Edokko spirits.
Going to Sento, a public bath, was a common leisure among Edo people. It has been so for Japanese until recently. But the culture of public bath in Japan is now becoming a thing of the past. In Asakusa there are still a few Sentos operating as before and if you dare, you can experience the essence of traditional Japanese life style.
Jakotsuyu is one of those traditional Sentos where foreigners are also welcomed (often featured in English travel guide books). Open 13:00 to 24:00 and closed on Tuesdays. ¥460 for adult. Tel: 03-3841-8645
Asakusa View Hotel boasts of a wonderful panorama view of Asakusa with Skytree in background. 326 rooms. - Asakusa View Hotel, 3-17-1 Nishiasakusa / Check-in 14:00 Check-out 11:00 Tel. 03-3847-1111
Very popular among backpackers, Khaosan has three guest houses in Asakusa area. Origami is one of them and the newest. - Khaosan Tokyo Origami, 3-4-12 Asakusa / Check-in 15:00 Check-out 11:00 Tel. 03-3871-6678