Asakusa’s colorful temple
Senso-ji is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, located in Asakusa, on the shores of the Sumida River. Originally built to worship bodhisattva Kannon, it is nowadays the most popular touristic spot, highly appreciated for its vivid colors, and its grassroots and busy atmosphere.
The souvenir shops on Nakamise-dori
Nakamise-dori is a long merchant street stretching between the majestic Kaminari-mon gate to the main temple building. Since the end of 17th and the beginning of the 18th century, shopkeepers have been struggling to sell some cheap souvenirs at the highest price! As the area is swarming with tourists, mainly from China and South Korea, they don’t really try to accommodate customers.
About 90 shops, open without interruption until night, are aligned over 250 meters. Visitors have a wide choice amongst food stalls and popular souvenir shops. As for food, you can have dango 🍡 skewers as well as sweet potato 🍠 or red bean paste dorayaki. The typical souvenirs are Maneki-neko cat 🐈 statues, red lanterns 🏮, Japanese fabric for furoshiki and katana sword toys.
The shops were rebuilt to look like their original appearance of December 26, 1885, when they first opened. In July 2017, their primary owner, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government sold them to Senso-ji temple. As a consequence, the shops monthly rent was multiplied by 16(!) in January 2018: from ¥23,000 (~US$167.30) to ¥370,000 (~US$2,691).
The colorful Buddhist complex
As for pagoda and buildings in Senso-ji temple, there is no denying that they were superbly rebuilt after World War II. They are also perfectly maintained, lit up and, although no sign of tradition hangs about them, they offer a postcard-like scenery right in the heart of Tokyo. However, visitors who don’t have the possibility to travel outside Tokyo during their stay are sure to enjoy the place.
The temple somehow lacks authenticity due to its flashy and shopping-oriented aspects. As an example, there are surprising jinrikisha or rickshaws activities which are priced up to 9,000 yens (~US$65.46) per half-hour! A high price to pay for being driven around in such densely crowded surroundings. If you are keen on riding a rickshaw, we rather recommend a ride along the paths of Sagano in Kyoto.
For a pretty view on Senso-ji, just cross the road opposite Kaminarimon and climb to the top of the Culture Tourist Information Center.