Things to do in Asakusa Tokyo; The Big Sights & the Local Vibe

Updated September 18, 2019

When you’re looking for things to do during your travels to Tokyo, there’s a good chance Asakusa will be somewhere on your list (along with the other “A” named places like Akihabara or Akasaka).

For good reason. Senso-Ji is the oldest temple in Tokyo, Japan — the historical view is amazing — definitely on par in popularity with the famous Meiji Shrine.

Here’s an itinerary that will hit all the big-ticket items plus some local vibe — all packed into one day — without wasting much time.

Think of it like a walking map of Asakusa where each step is shown and walking times are calculated as well — to roughly get you through one day of exploring the Asakusa area.

I break things down by the time of day too: morning, noon, and evening. You can choose to follow them all for a full day of fun, or pick parts based on the time you have.

When it comes to food I will point out one main place per time period, but will also try to offer alternatives nearby too.

Let’s get started.

Asakusa 1-day Itinerary

Morning

All the action starts in the morning when you get off the train at Asakusa station

When you finally find your way out of the Station you’ll head straight down the road toward Senso-Ji Temple which is the “can’t miss” sight in Asakusa.

2-min walk to Kaminarimon Gate

After about a block you’ll see the iconic Kaminarimon Gate with its huge paper lantern and cool statues. This is where you enter Senso-Ji, plus it’s a fantastic photo spot.

2-min walk to Nakamise-dori

Head through Kaminarimon Gate onto Nakamise-dori, which feels like a huge sidewalk with interesting shops all around. Take some time to peruse and see what’s on sale. Lots of great memorabilia available here (and traditional snacks if you missed breakfast).

4-min walk to Hozomon Gate

Nakamise-dori leads the magnificent Hozomon Gate protecting the main hall. Spend an hour or two exploring the Senso-Ji Temple grounds, and don’t overlook the 5-storied pagoda

5-min walk to Ramen-Tei

It’s time to leave Senso-Ji… If you enjoy ramen, on the way to the next leg of your tour take a break and grab some lunch at Ramen-Tei.

If you’re looking for alternatives to Ramen-Tei, check out Kamiya (udon noodles), Tentou (tempura), or maybe Nakasei (traditional Japanese food). These are all in the same area, near the next leg of the itinerary.

Afternoon

Okay, now it’s time to escape from Senso-Ji. The side streets around the area are just as amazing to check out.

Hit up Chingo-do. Yes, it’s another temple, but it has a fun twist because it enshrines the tanuki from Japanese folklore. 

6-min walk to Taiko Drum Museum

After you’ve had enough temple stuff move on to the Taiko Drum Museum. It’s a massive display of drums from all around the world — including, of course, the traditional Japanese taiko drum.

9-min walk to Edo Taito Crafts Center

From there make your way to the Edo Taito Traditional Crafts Center where you’ll find old-world Japanese craft exhibits (you’ll really love these if you’re into great craftsmanship). They hold demonstrations on weekends.

4-min walk to Ninja Cafe

Somewhere in between these places you’ll want to stop off for coffee or tea (and a snack) at the Ninja Cafe. It’s a crazy interesting experience you’ll regret missing while in the area.

Evening

In some guides, you’ll get directed to go across the river to check out the magnificent Tokyo Sky Tree. You could do that, or you could stay in Asakusa and see more here.

Let’s say it’s about 4:30 pm. It’s time to head over to Asakusa Mokubakan and enjoy a traditional Japanese theater show for ¥1,700/person. The evening show starts at 5:00 pm and ends at 8:30 pm (hopefully you ate something at the Ninja Cafe).

(Note: I realize this portion of the itinerary may not be the most family-friendly if you have small children – in that case, explore the area around Asakusa Engei Hall — it’s neat and packed with interesting shops to peruse).

3-min walk to Tonbi Gyuniku Emon

Don’t hesitate too much after the show, it’s time for dinner. How about some delicious yakiniku? Yakiniku is grilled meat (click here to learn more), and Tonbi Gyuniku Emon has some amazing quality.

1-min walk to Don Quijote Asakusa

After dinner, you can slow down and take your time. The last thing I wanted to point out is the huge Don Quijote shop. If you’ve never heard of this shop, think of it as an “as seen on TV” store meets an “off the wall gift stop” with a Japanese twist — and it’s open 24 hours.

From here on out, I will give a bit more info about each of the places I mentioned in the itinerary above and help you better understand what each thing is — plus maps pins, photos, street view, and more.

Top Sights in Asakusa

Asakusa Station

The nice thing about pretty much any train station, but in particular this train station, is there are a plethora of things to find around them.

In fact, if you wanted to forgo an itinerary and do your own thing, you can’t go wrong just exploring around here without a specific plan.

Senso-Ji Temple

Senso-Ji

Founded more than 1,000 years before Tokyo even existed, Senso-Ji is the capital’s oldest temple. Legend has it two fisherman brothers pulled a golden image of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, out of the nearby Sumida River. 

This temple was built to memorialize it. You’ll usually enter Senso-Ji at the first gate you come to after exiting Asakusa Station: the Kaminarimon Gate.

Kaminarimon Gate

The Kaminarimon (雷門 “Thunder Gate”) is the outer of two large entrance gates that ultimately leads to the Sensō-Ji (the inner being the Hōzōmon) in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan. […] It stands 11.7 m tall, 11.4 m wide and covers an area of 69.3 m2. The first gate was built in 941, but the current gate dates from 1960 after the previous gate was destroyed in a fire in 1865.” –Wikipedia

Pro tip: Check out the lantern. The base of it is a really cool dragon engraving.

Nakamise-Dori, aka Nakamise Shopping Street

Get a feel for old-school Tokyo at one of Japan’s oldest shopping streets, Nakamise-dori, which dates back to the 17th century. Most shops in this arcade have been run by the same families for several generations, serving souvenirs, top-class street food and irresistible snacks.” –JNTO

Note: “-dori” means street in Japanese. You’ll also hear Nakamise-dori referred to as Nakamise Shopping Street.

Pro tip: Most of the shops will close around 5:00 pm. But if you hang out you’ll be in for a nice surprise. The Senso-Ji temple area at night is beautiful.

When the shops close they pull down a shutter. Many will have intricate artwork painted on them. It’s quite a sight seeing rows and rows of murals.

Hozomon Gate

The Hōzōmon (宝蔵門 “Treasure-House Gate”) is the inner of two large entrance gates that ultimately leads to the Sensō-Ji […] A two-story gate (nijūmon), the Hōzōmon’s second story houses many of the Sensō-Ji’s treasures. The first story houses two statues, three lanterns, and two large sandals. It stands 22.7m tall, 21m wide, and 8m deep.” –Wikipedia

This is the gate you see in all the pictures about Senso-Ji. The massive gate “protecting” the main hall of the temple. It’s significantly larger than the Kaminarion Gate — and more interesting to look at too.

5-Storied Pagoda

The 5-storied pagoda is just a tiny bit past the Hozomon Gate. It’s easy to walk past it when you spot the main temple and head that way.

But it’s a pretty cool architecture to see so you should take some time to see it while here.

Chingo-do Temple

Chingo-do

A relatively unknown temple, it’s actually a part of Senso-Ji but it has a separate entrance — so many miss it. I recommend it because it’s a tribute to the tanuki — a fun, merry, raccoon-like Japanese folklore character said to protect against fire and theft.

Which is why restaurants and homeowners often put them out in front as protection and good fortune.

Taiko Drum Museum

Taiko Drum Museum

With a massive variety of drums from all around the world, this is a place you want to check out while you’re here. 

Of course, they have a good mix of the traditional Japanese taiko — but do you wanna know something really cool? This is not just a museum that you’ll find exhibits to look at but you can actually play them!

Edo Taito Traditional Crafts Center

Edo Taito Traditional Crafts Center

If you are into old-Japan crafts and artisan exhibits and traditions, you’re in luck here this place is amazing. 

They demonstrate the Edo-era cut glass techniques and more. It really is quite an experience to see. The Japanese have exceptional crafting traditions. 

Don’t let the size fool you, the place is quite small but loaded with interesting things to see.

Tokyo Sky Tree

I’m not going to talk much about the Tokyo Sky Tree here. Needless to say, it is very cool to check out. It’s across the river from Asakusa, in Sumida.

Tokyo sky tree opened in May 2012 as the world’s tallest freestanding tower. It’s silvery exterior of steel mesh Morse from a triangle at the base to a circle at 300 m. There are two observation decks, at 350m and 450m.

Asakusa Mokubakan

Asakusa Mokubakan

Almost a decade back, I used to come here every New Year’s with my in-laws to watch the season’s new theatre works. It was a blast, even if I couldn’t understand what was being said.

This place is very popular among locals. You will find it very busy with the older crowd, as it seems the older generations appreciate this art form more.

As I mentioned, the price is ¥1,700 per person and they have two showtimes a day. One starting at 12:00 (noon), and the other at 5:00 pm. Both are 3.5-hour shows.

Asakusa Engei Hall

The area around here is interesting because there are a plethora of little shops selling unique snacks, Japanese crafts, and even rickshaw rides.

The main attraction of the Engei Hall is the stand-up comedians who will play here from time to time. And yes, you can get in to see them if you buy your ticket quickly — they can sell out early.

Don Quijote Asakusa

Asakusa Don Quijote

And last but not least, Don Quijote.

There are Don Quijote branches all over Tokyo, but there’s a reason I included it here.

The bright lights and fun architecture!

It’s straight outta Hollywood feeling. Like an old-time movie theater mixed with excellent architecture. It is a sight all by itself.

And it’s kind of fun to look around through all the unique and sometimes odd products they have for sale.

Eating in Asakusa

Ramen-Tei

Ramen-Tei

Ramen is one of those foods in Japan that draws an almost cult-like following. Where they try to discover every possible bowl of ramen there is.

Ramen-Tei won’t disappoint even the most die-hard ramen fan. They have a great variety on the menu and even many unique choices too.

Here’s an English menu too.

On a side note, if you want to learn all about ramen in Japan, check out my complete guide (that will honestly teach you more than you think there is to know about ramen). 🙂

Ninja Cafe

Ninja Cafe Asakusa

This one is fun. It’s a glimpse at some of the quirky side of Japanese culture.

This is a cafe with ninja shaped food along with a ninja theme atmosphere. Some of the food will have shuriken on them (ninjas stars). Or the entire dish is shaped like one.

And of course, you get to dress up like a ninja too!

Tonbi Gyuniku Emon

Tonbi Yakiniku Restaurant

This is one of those tiny hole-in-the-wall types of places you would probably just walk right past.

That’s too bad too. These are often the best shops to try. The tiny mom ‘n pop shops where the owners have been at their craft for decades.

Luckily you have me to recommend these places to you.

If you like yakiniku you’ll enjoy the food here. It’s tiny. It’s old. But it’s amazing.

Asakusa Sushi Ken

Asakusa Sushi Ken, Tokyo, Japan

When you’re hungry for sushi, this place has you covered. Especially if your religion requires a Halal diet.

Sushi Ken is a halal-friendly sushi shop in Asakusa Tokyo. In fact, it was the first to offer a fully halal-friendly sushi menu in Japan.