Asakusa Japan & Sensoji Temple – When visiting Japan, you will certainly land in Tokyo, the country’s capital, somewhere along the way. It is undoubtedly one of my favorite cities in the world because I love the way tradition and modernity intertwine in Tokyo. I mean, you can visit old temples and stroll through hyper modern business districts, that’s how harmoniously ancient and modern Tokyo is.
Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s most traditional districts and is famous for its Buddhist Sensoji temple. It is the oldest Japanese temple in the entire capital and was actually built around the year 645. And although it is a major tourist site today, I still think it is a must-visit attraction so if you happen to be around, give it a try!
Before to read the following tips, have a look at what Asakusa looks like in this walking video:
How To Get To Asakusa, Japan?
The district of Asakusa is located on the north-east fringe of central Tokyo, and the fastest and most efficient way to get there is to take the subway. The nearest station to Senso-ji is Asakusa Station. The Ginza and the Asakusa line can both take you there. To plan your subway trip in Tokyo, Hyperdia is a very useful website that may come in handy during your trip to Japan.
To give you an example, from Shibuya, it will take you half an hour to go to Asakusa Station through the Ginza Line and the trip will cost you 240 yen (about $2):
Where To Stay In Asakusa, Japan?
If you decide to stay for a few days in Asakusa, you will have enough time to enjoy Japanese culture and the opportunity to visit other nearby interesting districts of Tokyo like Akihabara or Ueno. Asakusa being a traditional district, opting for a ryokan instead of a hotel would guarantee you the most authentic of Japanese experiences.
I recommend the Asakusa Shigetsu. It is very conveniently located between Asakusa Station and Senso-ji. It’s also not very expensive, considering the comfort it offers. As you can see, you will be sleeping on futons and tatami mats instead of a usual bed. You’ll probably think it’s a strange way of sleeping at first but I personally find it very comfortable.
For other good ryokan recommendation in Tokyo, check out this blog post: Ryokan in Tokyo.
If you prefer to stay in a more modern hotel, the Red Planet Hotel is a 5-minute walk from Sensoji temple. In terms of facilities and rooms, you will find exactly what you need there with a great view of the Tokyo Skytree.
It’s even more impressive at night!
lIf you’re on a budget but still want to stay for a few days in Asakusa, you can book a dorm room bed at the Retrometro Backpackers hostel. It is located within walking distance from Asakusa Station.
Dorms are comfortable and cost about $18 per night, which is really cheap for a hostel in Tokyo. The staff is super friendly and the hostel is a very convenient place to meet other travelers. Try booking as early as possible, the hostel could be sold out if you don’t plan ahead.
If you are searching for more options, feel free to read this blog post too: Where to stay in Tokyo.
Entrance to the Sensoji Temple
From Asakusa Station and on your way to Senso-ji, you will cross beautiful pedestrian streets and come across many Japanese restaurants. If you happen to be hungry, don’t hesitate to try them out, the food there is really good even though it is a bit more expensive than elsewhere in Tokyo.
Tokyo Skytree should be behind you now.
Continue walking and you will eventually see the Senso-ji temple at the end of the main shopping street of the district.
If you plan to buy souvenirs from Japan, I recommend you don’t do it from the shops you see on the right in the picture below. They are quite expensive and do not offer a wide range of products. The shopping mall outside the temple (exact location here) is much more convenient. It might not be as trendy but you will find what you need there and it won’t cost you much.
You will probably notice that Sensoji temple is just as popular among tourists than among Japanese people.
Many wedding ceremonies are held there and the newlyweds would be dressed in kimonos and have their picture taken. If you too would like to wear a kimono to visit the temple, you can book everything online in advance.
By the way, there are several entrance gates leading to Senso-ji and the gate above is the one called Hōzōmon. Another well-known entrance gate is the one called Kaminarimon, literally the thunder gate or the lightening gate. At night, it’s a totally different story! Look!
Inside Sensoji Temple
Once inside the temple, the first thing you will see is this kind of smokehouse that leads to the temple. Tradition has it that you have to burn incense and have the smoke come your way to attract good fortune.
Another popular custom at the Sensoji Temple is to shake a cylindrical box filled with wood sticks. Eventually, one of the sticks would drop and it will be marked with a number. There’s a drawer corresponding to that number and inside of it is a piece of paper on which your future will be predicted. If it’s a positive prediction, you can keep the note. If it’s negative, fold the paper and tie it up somewhere to (symbolically) leave your misfortune at the temple.
Cleansing yourself before entering the temple is also a good way (and the usual way) to start your visit. You can do this by heading to the temple’s dragon fountain, pouring water on your hands and rinsing your mouth with holy water. You don’t have to do it of course but it’s always a positive attitude coming from foreigners who show respect to local customs and do their best to honor them.
As you head to Sensoji temple, you’ll see a huge lantern at its entrance. It’s actually a Buddhist temple dedicated to Bodhisattva Kannon, goddess of compassion. You will also find Shinto references, another major religion in Japan.
It is forbidden to take pictures inside the temple so that’s where I leave it to your imagination.
A Walk in the Garden of Sensoji Temple
Senso-ji is a very busy temple but its garden is almost neglected by its visitors. It is only a few feet away from the temple and it’s my favorite place in Asakusa. There’s a magnificent five-storied pagoda there.
The garden of Senso-ji is also a beautiful spot to admire the plum blossoms in March. This time of year is called Ume Matsuri and I find that plum blossoms are just as beautiful as cherry blossoms. They have a slightly darker pink color than Sakura.
Senso-ji’s garden is also home to the only fish that you will probably find in almost every Japanese garden, the nishikigoi.
You will also find beautiful Buddha statues among other very enjoyable things! So don’t miss out on this great temple and take your time to enjoy as much of it as you can.
That’s it, friends! That was our quick tour of Asakusa and its famous Sensoji Temple. I hope you enjoyed this blog post and if you have any questions, please ask them in the comments below.
See you around, fellow travelers!