Adventures in Asakusa By Valerie Taylor (Adventures in Asakusa – Part 2)
In the past Asakusa was the land of Kabuki and other traditional forms of Japanese stage play. Nowadays, though these influences remain, Asakusa has become a remnant of old Japan. That is, it is one of those places that transports you to a past Japan will never forget. Asakusa is a favorite tourist spot and shopping location for the natives. For me, it holds some significance, because many of my friends and I have traveled these streets years, and there’s always memories to be made.
If you’re in Japan for any length of time, Asakusa is a district to be prioritized. As someone who keeps coming back and being amazed, I can say you will not leave disappointed. If you want to go shopping, Asakusa has innumerable streets dedicated to souvenirs and handmade crafts. Two streets that visitors can find treasures to bring home are Nakamise-dori and Kappabashi-dori (also known as Kitchen Town). The difference between these two places is that Nakamise deals in toys, paper fans, katana and kitschy stuff. Meanwhile, Kappabashi is where you head if you want lacquerware, cooking supplies and teppanyaki grills.
What I like about Nakamise-dori is that most shops accept credit cards. The street is a straight walk to Senso-ji, Japan’s most famous and oldest temple. The immense first gate stops most people in their tracks. No matter what season I visit, the temple is teeming with people.
This time, I encountered a random Japanese man from Nagoya who’d never been to Asakusa. He asked if he could tag along with the excursion to see the sights. Because it was a unique chance for a friendly cultural exchange, I happily agreed. The Japanese, especially Tokyoites, are not exactly open to speaking with strangers. Thanks to his unusual gregariousness, I learned some interesting things about Senso-ji that I’d never known
before. An example would be the unique construction of the temple.
The spire is supposedly a rarity in Japan. My new friend Hideho told me that usually they’re a single piece, not ringed like what you see below. Of course, this spire is also a remake, which I didn’t know. The original was destroyed many years before.
Before heading up to the temple to pray, my companion suggested that we try a luck with omikuji, a customary fortune-telling you can do at Japanese temples. You pay a small amount of money—usually about 100 yen—to shake a tube filled with numbered straws. You then open the designated drawer, take out a sheet of paper, and receive your fortune.