I’ve never had so much fun waiting in line as I did passing through Nakasime Dori on the way to Sensō-ji. The place was packed with energy, and I ate matcha ice cream while all the beautiful sights of Asakusa towered above me.
Asakusa is a sight-seeing mecca with historical sites, natural beauty, and fun activities around every corner. In fact, Asakusa is so full of life that sometimes it can be hard to decide exactly what to do. These 30 attractions offer experiences you’ll remember for a lifetime, so find the ones that appeal to your interests and to plan your unforgettable itinerary.
These 30 attractions include a variety that ranges from major monuments to individual classes. Read the descriptions along with times, locations, and prices to see how they can fit into your adventure.
Straddling the west bank of the Sumida River, Asakusa is a famous district within the Taitō ward in Tokyo. During the Edo period, it became an entertainment district in the city for wealthy shopkeepers in adjacent neighborhoods. As a result, modern Asakusa is the place to go in Tokyo for culture and sightseeing. From major religious monuments to elaborate shopping centers, Asakusa provides an area densely packed with things to do so you can best use your time in Tokyo.
The biggest draw of the district is the Sensoji Buddhist temple, which anchors a large complex with numerous sights. This is a must-see for Asakusa visitors, but there are also plenty of hidden gems and other activities that will leave you with unforgettable memories.
30 Unforgettable Things To Do In Asakusa
Feel awe at the grandeur of the Sensoji Temple
Sensō-ji might be the most recognizable sight of the entire Asakusa district. It is a large Buddhist temple dating back to the year 645 AD, making it Tokyo’s oldest temple and one of the oldest in Japan. Next to the temple is a five-story pagoda typical of ancient Japanese architecture. For a little fun, you can also have your fortune told by buying a small O-mikuji paper.
Sensoji is a great place to see traditional Japanese culture. It is one of the most frequently visited spiritual sites in the entire world. 30 million people come from around Japan and overseas to visit the temple every year.
On top of its beauty, Sensoji also allows you to experience a number of other special sites right in the vicinity. It makes a good starting point for your Asakusa adventure.
Get startled by statues at the Hōzōmon and Kaminarimon Gates
These are the two large gates that decorate the entrance to the Sensoji Temple. Kaminarimon literally means thunder while Hozomon means treasure house. Both were built after the temple itself sometime in the 10th Century.
The big draw of the gates, on top of the architecture, are the Niō statues. These statues are muscular guardians of the Buddha, and their craftsmanship is spectacular.
Get a feel for Japanese religion at the Asakusa Shinto Shrine
Though smaller, the grounds surrounding the Sensoji Temple also have a Shinto Shrine. Along with Buddhism, Shinto is Japan’s other main religion, and unlike Buddhism, it’s unique to the country. Visiting them both together gives a well-rounded perspective of Japanese spiritual culture and how the two religions coexist. In fact, the shrine is dedicated to the three men who built Sensoji.
The Asakusa Shinto Shrine is one of the most famous shrines in Japan and is considered an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government. It was one of few buildings in Asakusa to survive the Tokyo air raids of World War II.
Explore the shops on Nakamise Dori
Nakamise Dori is the street that leads up to the Sensoji temple. Filled with merchants, it’s a bustling market that’s a fun way to pass the time while you wait to enter the temple. It features about 90 different shops that sell street food, souvenirs and more.
Get a bird’s-eye view on top of the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center
Once you’ve explored the Sensoji temple grounds, you may feel like the amazing scenery was difficult to take in at once with all the visitors, buildings and shops. The Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center gives you the opportunity to see it all from above.
Of course, the main function of the Tourist Information Center is to, well, give information to tourists. Inside you can find all sorts of free resources like maps and wifi and even a free English-language guided walking tour. There’s also a cafe, an exhibition space and, most notably, an observation deck where you can see the district from eight floors up, including spectacular views of the Sensoji temple, Tokyo Skytree and Asahi Flame. Not only that, but the modern wood-paneled building is an architectural sight all on its own.
The center is just outside Asakusa Station, so it’s easy to access. The center itself is open from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM, but the observation deck remains open until 10:00 PM.
Smell the flowers in Denboin Garden
The Denboin Garden is the official residence of the abbot of the Sensoji Temple. While it’s technically his private garden, it’s luckily open for visitors from mid-March to mid-May, the specific dates changing each year.
You can take a loop around the koi pond to see the famous landscape and traditional buildings backdropped by the Sensoji pagoda. Sights along the loop include a bell cast in 1387, a stone coffin and a large hanging cherry tree. You also pass the large study of the abbot where you will receive free tea.
Aside from only being open during the cherry blossom season, the hours are short, just 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. There is also a ¥300 entrance fee.
Feel the adrenaline at Hanayashiki
Besides historical and spiritual immersion, you can also get your fill of thrills in Asakusa. Hanayashiki is an amusement park nestled right into the busy neighborhood. In fact, opened in 1853, it’s the oldest amusement park in Japan.
The park features a number of attractions, including a roller coaster, a drop tower giving you an amazing view of the city, and the famous panda cars. At Hanayashiki, you can buy tickets to ride individual rides, or if you want the full experience, you can get unlimited passes that the park will even mail to your hotel. These are ¥2,300 for adults and ¥2,000 for elementary school children.
Find souvenirs at Nishi Sando Promenade
Nishi Sando is a shopping promenade arranged inside a traditional Japanese building. Just left of the Sensoji Temple, the shopping center features around 40 unique shops and restaurants selling souvenirs and traditional Japanese goods. One of the most interesting things about the promenade are the floors. It’s made of woven cypress wood. Nishi Sando is technically owned by the Sensoji Temple, and at just 100 meters long, the shopping area is an excellent place to get memorabilia of your Sensoji pilgrimage.
Conquer your fear of heights at Tokyo Skytree
The Tokyo Skytree is one of the main sights in Tokyo, and it’s easily accessible from Asakusa, just across the Sumida river. Skytree is a 634-meter (2,080-ft) radio tower, actually the second tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Along with viewing its impressive place in the Tokyo Skyline, you can travel to the observation deck 451.2 meters (1,480 ft) up that gives you a breathtaking view of the city. There is also a cafe, photo opportunities and audio tours. Pricing varies based on day, age and which floors you want to access. There are also more expensive options that allow you to skip the long line of people usually waiting for tickets. For example, the most expensive option, a fast combo ticket that lets you cut the line and visit both floors costs ¥4,200. You can see all the prices here. Access to the observation deck opens at 8:00 AM and has a last admission at 9:00 PM.
See how the ancient Japanese lived at Amuse Museum
The Sensoji Temple will show you the refined, spiritual traditional culture of Japan, but if you want to see artifacts from traditional Japanese common life, you can get the full picture at Amuse Museum. Specifically, the museum features numerous exhibits of folk art, tools and textiles that you can freely touch, giving you an intimate look into the lives of ancient Japanese people.
Amuse also has a Ukiyo-e theater that exhibits a number of digitized Ukiyo-e prints based on the Spaulding collection from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Ukiyo-e is the traditional Japanese artform of woodblock printing.
The museum is about five minutes from Asakusa Station and has a last entry of 5:30 PM. There’s an entry fee of ¥1,080 for adults, ¥864 for university and high school students and ¥540 for elementary school students.
See the city with a Sumida River cruise
Tokyo is divided by several rivers flowing into Tokyo Bay. This actually makes it very convenient to explore the city. Asakusa is a great place to start a cruise on the Sumida River to see the city in style. A number of companies offer cruises. Starting from Asakusa there are two popular operators.
Tokyo Cruise operates five different lines launching from Asakusa Boating Area and terminating in a number of different places around Tokyo Bay. A trip from Asakusa to Odaiba Kaihin Park costs ¥1,260 and lasts about 70 minutes. You can find the timetable here.
The Tokyo Mizube Line has three cruises, the longest of which will take you from Asakusa to the famous Kasai Rinkai Park. The standard trip from Asakusa Boating Area to Odaiba Kaihin Park costs ¥1,130 and takes between 45 and 75 minutes. You can find timetables here.
Have a drink on Hoppy Street
To relax after a long day exploring Tokyo’s premier sightseeing district, head to Hoppy Street for traditional nightlife. It’s an 80-meter backroad full of Japanese-style bars all hanging the traditional red lanterns. Get beef stew and drink sake all at inexpensive prices. The neighborhood is just a few minutes west of the Sensoji Temple complex and easy to find.
Cruise the neighborhood with a rickshaw tour
If you get seasick, you can opt for a rickshaw tour instead of a boat tour. All around Asakusa, you’ll see these friendly tour operators pulling their two-wheeled carts. In fact, just outside of Asakusa Station, you’ll find a large line of them waiting for patrons. There are many companies offering different courses and rates.
To make a reservation ahead of time, you can do so with Kosugiya, a company with easy English access. They offer courses ranging from 10 to 90 minutes with rates based on one, two or three passengers. For example, two people riding for an hour costs ¥15,000.
Check out the unusual architecture of Asahi Beer Hall and Tower
Near the Tokyo Skytree and just three-minutes across the Sumida River from Asakusa Station, the Asahi Beer Hall is the most recognizable building of the Asahi Brewery headquarters complex and in fact one of the most recognizable in all of Tokyo. It’s shaped like a beer glass, but its real notoriety comes from the enormous 360-ton golden Asahi Flame on its roof. This flame is said to represent the “burning heart of Asahi beer,” but unfortunately, its tapering shape has led it to be colloquially referred to as “the golden turd.” Right beside it is the Asahi Beer Tower, its golden tint and white top designed to look like a frothing mug of beer.
You can do more than appreciate the unusual architecture, though. Inside the Asahi Beer Hall is a casual beer-based restaurant called Flamme d’Or. Here you can drink Asahi and other craft beers as well as beer cocktails and imports. The Asahi Beer Tower houses four restaurants, all on the 21st and 22nd floors, providing impressive views to go with your dining experience. Restaurant Alaska is a formal French restaurant, Mochizuki offers traditional Japanese kaiseki style meals, La Ranarita serves Italian food, and the Asahi Sky Room is a cafe lounge with snacks and pub fare.
Stock your kitchen in Kappabashi Kitchen Town
Anyone who loves cooking will love Kappabashi Kitchen Town. It’s a street on the edge of Asakusa that’s home to dozens of stores selling restaurant equipment, kitchenware, basically everything you can imagine cooking-related except for food itself. One fun product you’ll find around the neighborhood is the typical wax dish you see displayed in the windows of Japanese restaurants. These fake food samples make funny souvenirs.
The street is a few blocks west of Asakusa in between the Asakusa and Ueno Stations.
Hit a home run at Rox Dome Batting Stadium
Rox Dome is a hidden gem in Asakusa that’s endless fun for adults and kids alike. You can release some energy in the batting cages, or you can go downstairs and play arcade games. Open until 1 AM, it’s a common place for people to blow off steam after work. About five-minutes from Sensoji Temple, four games are only ¥1,000, and you can set the speed.
See some weird history at the Tobacco & Salt Museum
Tobacco and salt might seem like an odd combination, but historically both have been important global commodities, especially in Japan where the government held monopolies on these products until very recently. Both have played important roles in the development of Japanese culture.
The museum actually carries out research on both tobacco and salt and exhibits this to the public. Additionally, it shows examples of the products’ use throughout history and their production today.
Just a few blocks south of the Tokyo Skytree, the Tobacco & Salt Museum is across the Sumida River from Asakusa. It’s open every day except Monday from 10 AM to 6 PM with last admission at 5:30 PM. Admission costs ¥100 for adults and ¥500 for students.
Catch a morning Sumo practice
There are some 40 sumo stables, or beya, in Tokyo where aspiring sumo wrestlers put in the grueling hours it takes to master the sport. You might not want to jump in the ring yourself, but luckily you can get a real sumo experience by going to watch a stable’s morning practice.
Practice times and public visibility will depend on the stable, but practice is normally in the morning, ending between 10 and 11 o’clock. Two stables easily accessible from Asakusa are the Nishiiwa-beya just 500 meters south from Sensoji Temple, and Naruto-beya near Tokyo Skytree. It’s best to visit these stables’ websites before going to check when they have practices viewable by the public. Sometimes you can even take pictures with the wrestlers afterward!
Learn about byōbu folding screens at Kataoka Byobuten
Kataoka Byobuten is the only shop in Tokyo entirely dedicated to the traditional Japanese folding screens or byōbu. Historically, these screens served the practical purpose of dividing rooms and marking off private spaces, but they are often impressive works of art featuring painting and calligraphy.
At Kataoka Byobuten you can peruse their extensive showroom to find a souvenir folding screen, visit the small museum or even take classes on byōbu production. The shop is located across the Sumida River from Asakusa, in between Sumida Park and Tokyo Skytree. It’s open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Travel back in time at Kameido Umeyashiki
Kameido Umeyashiki literally means “Plum Park in Kameido” and is the name of a famous woodblock print made in the ukiyo-e style by the Japanese artist Hiroshige. In 2013, the Kameido neighborhood opened an information center designed to look like the original plum wood estate that once existed there and inspired the painting.
Along with a structure reconstructed in the Edo style, there’s a hall that sells local snacks and an outdoor gallery with woodblock prints. The center is located a bit outside of Asakusa, southeast of Tokyo Skytree, but it’s worth the trip to get a glimpse of Tokyo before it became the world’s biggest metropolis. Go to their website to see business hours which change by season.
See the up-and-comers Art Gallery MoMo Ryogoku
There are two Gallery MoMos in Tokyo, the closest to Asakusa being the Ryogoku location located about a kilometer and half south of Asakusa Station. The idea behind the galleries is to give space to new and unique artists. If you want to catch important Japanese artists before they hit it big, this is the place to go. The gallery is just outside Ryogoku Station on the Toei Oedo line, or it’s a scenic 20-minute walk south from Asakusa Station, across the Sumida River.
Discover your inner chef with Udon classes
Udon refers to the thick wheat noodles often used in Japanese cuisine. The style of cooking employing these is called “Udon,” and there are a number of venues in Asakusa where you can go to learn all parts of this culinary art, including rolling the noodles and preparing the dishes.
To find a teacher, visit sites like airKitchen or Traveling Spoon or just do a Google search to find a teacher in the Asakusa area. These private cooking teachers set their own prices and can usually work around your schedule. Some can even teach you in their traditional kitchen, giving you the full Japanese cooking experience.
Master a new craft with ukiyo-e woodblock printing classes
Of course, cooking isn’t the only part of Japanese culture you can try to master. Traditional Japanese woodblock printing, or ukiyo-e, is a celebrated art form you can learn from trained professionals in the Asakusa area. You can find a number of private teachers online, or visit the website of Mokuhankan studio to make a reservation. You can block off a one-hour session that includes pre-carved woodblocks, tools and equipment. It costs ¥2,000 per person, but there are discounts for families and groups. The studio is very easy to get to as it’s just west of Nakamise Dori.
Try matcha gelato at Suzukien
Especially after spending time on Nakamise Dori, you’ve realized that the Japanese like to flavor everything they can with matcha, the concentrated powder made from green tea leaves. Well, while matcha treats all around Asakusa, you’d be doing yourself a disfavor if you didn’t try it at Suzukien, the gelato shop known for the richest matcha-flavored gelato in the world.
The shop itself is small but features seven different levels of matcha-flavored gelato along with other typical and innovative versions like black sesame and dainagon azuki, the Japanese sweet red bean. Additionally, you can buy souvenirs to go like green tea and sencha tea bags.
On the main thoroughfare just north of the Sensoji temple complex and hospital, it’s impossible to miss Suzukien with its green banners and inevitable line to get in. Its standard hours are 11 AM to 4 PM, and you check their holiday times on their website.
Shop with ease at Ekimise
Ekimise is a shopping mall conveniently located right in the same building as Asakusa Station. Built in 1931, the building is one of Asakusa’s cultural landmarks.
The basement level through the third floor are occupied by the historic Matsuya Department Store, selling cosmetics, accessories and clothing. Floors 4-7 house independent retailers who sell electronics, books and fashion. The seventh floor also features a number of restaurants serving both Japanese and international cuisine.
Unique attractions include the railway diorama and large selection of model trains located on the fifth floor and the rooftop terrace. The terrace provides a great view of the surrounding neighborhood with Tokyo Skytree in the distance. From May to September, there’s also a rooftop beer garden and barbecue.
Shake hands with Hibari Misora at the Plaza of Stars
Like the walk of fame in Hollywood, the Plaza of Stars (Star-no-hiroba) just outside the Asakusa Public Hall has the handprints and autographs of around 300 Japanese celebrities. These include actors, singers and comedians, and there are new installations every year. The famous hands include that of Hibari Misora, the singer and cultural icon, Toshiro Mifune, the renowned actor, and Takeshi Kitano, the film director.
Get in your shopping at Asakusa Don Quijote
Located just a few blocks west of the Sensoji temple complex, it’s hard to miss the Don Quijote market with its large neon sign. The store is well known and popular with tourists because of its rich selection of merchandise and fun atmosphere. Specifically, several things make Don Quijote the ideal stop for your Asakusa shopping experience.
For one, the store is full, often floor to ceiling, with bulk goods at discount prices. You can get foreign goods and souvenirs and have them shipped to the airport to pick up.
Additionally, Don Quijote lets you shop with foreign currency. You can shop with US dollars, Chinese yuan, Hong Kong dollars, Taiwan dollars, Korean won and Thai baht. Just use one of the specially designated foreign currency registers. With a foreign passport, you can even get a tax refund on certain goods if you spend over ¥5,000.
Finally, there’s more to do than just shop. The fifth floor houses two restaurants, and the sixth floor houses a karaoke studio that also serves food. The seventh floor is dedicated to the Amuse Cafe & Theater that puts on various 90-minute shows costing ¥5,400. Visit their website for show times.
If you want, you can take the Tsukuba Express to its Asakusa Station just a block west of Don Quijote. The shopping center is open 24 hours a day.
Take a traditional Japanese bath at a sentō
Japanese bathhouses are a unique and enjoyable part of Japanese culture. Unfortunately, they can sometimes be difficult to find, especially in the crowded metropolis of Tokyo. Unlike onsen, which are warmed by underground hot springs, sentō are better designed for the urban environment. Traditionally, the bathhouses heated their water over fire, and many still do.
Sentō are historically important social gathering places. The etiquette is very specific and involves separate baths by gender, washing yourself beforehand and, in many cases, a ban on tattoos. You pay for entrance which gives you a certain amount of time during which you can access the baths.
As people commonly have bathing facilities in their homes now, the number of sentō in Tokyo has been rapidly decreasing. Still, there are a couple great ones you can visit in and around Asakusa. Akebono-yu is located just north of the Sensoji temple complex, and Jakotsu-yu is located to its south. Hours and fees will differ by location.
Go off the beaten path to a small shrine
After visiting both the Buddhist and Shinto parts of the Sensoji temple complex, you may be overwhelmed by the grandeur and enormous crowd of pilgrims and tourists waiting to see it. Well, despite the Sensoji’s prominence, there are actually several other shrines in and around Asakusa that can give you a more peaceful, down-to-earth look into Japan’s Shinto tradition.
In fact, just on the east side of Umamichi Dori from Sensoji, you can find the Ureshinomori Inari-jinja Shrine. North of the complex is the Yakyu Inari-jinja Shrine, and if you cross the river, there are two quaint traditional shrines near Sumida Park: Ushijima and Mimeguri-jinja. These feature the beautiful architecture and craftsmanship typical of the religion and are fundamental to understanding traditional Japanese culture.
See the river—and maybe cherry blossoms—at Sumida Park
Sumida Park, right next to Asakusa Station, is a great way to experience some nature even in the bustling heart of Tokyo. The park borders both sides of the Sumida River and features 500 cherry trees that you can see blooming during the annual cherry blossom festival known as hanami. The blooming happens each year starting in late March and lasting till early April. Even if you’re visiting Asakusa outside of this timeframe, consider taking a stroll along the river or having a picnic in the grass and enjoying the beautiful view of the Tokyo skyline.
Some Asakusa advice? Take a map!
Asakusa is really a pretty small district, yet it’s packed with things to do. As you can see from our descriptions, many things are easy to get to from different metro lines, and you can orient yourself within the neighborhood based on the Sensoji Temple. If you take a map, you can mark off all the things you want to see so you can use your time efficiently. You won’t have to cross the district back and forth or backtrack if you pass a sight. This way you can soak up as much of Asakusa as possible.