Top 42 Things to Do in Asakusa
Tradition and the modern city intertwine in Asakusa like nowhere else, making it one of Tokyo's top districts to check out. Take a look at our pick of the top 42 things to do in Asakusa for some inspiration.
On the banks of the Sumida River in north-eastern Tokyo, find Asakusa, a district rich in life. Once packed with Geisha and theatre-goers as the capital’s premier entertainment district, today, tourists are more common, drawn like moths to a flame by Asakusa’s reputation as the city’s historic and cultural centre.
To the west of central Tokyo, Shinjuku and Shibuya do a good job of providing 21st-century thrills, their neons, noise and crowds holding down Tokyo’s futurist reputation with style. Asakusa, though, is often a weary tourist’s idea of heaven. Although crowds are the norm, its serene Edo charm provides a welcome respite from the stresses of modern Tokyo. Asakusa isn’t a mere shelter from the storm, however, things to do here are endless. Discover our pick of the 42 best, below.
1. Asakusa Sightseeing
Sightseeing is the name of the game in Asakusa. Below you’ll find a whole smorgasbord of things to see and do, so first, a few tips from the experts.
To get the most from your day make sure you arrive early and dedicate the whole day, or alternatively, section off a couple of days from your Tokyo itinerary and take in the district at your own pace. Another good idea is to have a few key sightseeing spots in mind before setting out but be willing to go rogue and explore anything that peaks your interest along the way. It’s all about finding the right balance between rigid organisation and spontaneity.
Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s best-loved sightseeing spots, so inevitably, crowds are a common fixture, especially on weekends. Don’t be perturbed, though, the energy that comes from the crowds gives Asakusa its life and makes a day of Asakusa sightseeing all the more rewarding.
2. Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center
The Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center, set inside an eye-catching eight-story building of vertical wooden slats and glass on the corner of Kaminari-mon Gate is not easily missed, and nor should it be. The building, conceptualised as a modern take on traditional architecture, sets out quite clearly the overarching aim of Asakusa: to introduce visitors to the Japan of old whilst providing a thoroughly modern tourist experience. Inside, the cheerful staff, fluent in an array of languages, will help you out in any way they can, including providing some insider tips and tricks for making the most of your time in the district. What’s more, there’s free WiFi throughout and the view from the eighth floor is well worth checking out.
Sun-Sat 09:00 – 20:00
3. Rickshaw Tour
Upon exiting Asakusa Station you’ll soon be dodging the charming rickshaw’s that fill the streets. To get in on the action, approach one of the traditionally dressed drivers that hover conspicuously on the pavement. Generally, they’ll be able to speak enough English for you to negotiate a price or they’ll have it written on a sign, but expect to pay somewhere around 2,000 yen for a 10-minute ride or 5,000 yen for a 30-minute ride. Once mounted, you’ll be whisked around Asakusa’s main points of interest and this time pedestrians will be dodging you. Although it’s unlikely you’ll be given much of an opportunity to linger, a rickshaw tour is a good way to get a feel for the district and begin to get your bearings.
4. Tokyo Cruise
Asakusa borders Tokyo’s main waterway, the Sumida River. Take advantage by taking to the water courtesy of Tokyo Cruise. As you float along the calm Sumida waters you’ll be able to take in the many riverside points of interest and bridges as you go, all from the comfort of a glass-topped boat. Tokyo Cruise run a few different routes throughout the day, though the most popular are the Asakusa to Odaiba (and back) and Asakusa to Hamarikyu Gardens options. Prices are incredibly reasonable, and, from a practical perspective, the boat makes a nice alternative to the boring old subway.
5. Asakusa Hare Terrace
On the rooftop of Eikimise, Asakusa’s largest shopping complex, you’ll find Asakusa Hare Terrace, an area featuring a viewing platform, clocktower and even a Shinto shrine. The view from here is excellent and one of the best places in Asakusa from which to fully take in the mammoth Tokyo Skytree in the distance. Best of all, it won’t cost you a penny.
Sun-Sat 10:00 – 20:00
6. Tokyo Skytree
Although not technically in Asakusa, the Tokyo Skytree certainly makes its presence felt. On completion in 2010, the structure became the tallest building in Japan and the second tallest in the world, second only to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. Designed with both the spirit of Japan’s architectural heritage and the countries futurist leanings in mind, the Skytree looms over the city and can be seen from far and wide. Asakusa, however, is the best place from which to witness the building in all of its majesty. From Asakusa, the Skytree is only a short walk or train ride away and visitors who make the ascent are rewarded with the best view out over the Tokyo megalopolis money can buy.
Sun-Sat 08:00 – 21:00
7. Asahi Beer Headquarters
Situated on the Sumida’s far river bank, the Asahi Beer Headquarters and the adjacent Asahi Beer Hall cut quite the figures against the horizon. They are now two of Tokyo’s most instantly recognisable buildings, though the latter has a tendency to divide opinion. Whatever your take, they’re both certainly distinctive from a distance and well worth checking out from closer up. Head over there and inside you’ll find a small museum dedicated to the history of Japan’s most famous brewery as well as a number of restaurants that will be happy to serve you up a nice frothy glass of amber nectar.
Address: 1-23-1 Azumbashi, Sumida, Tokyo
8. Kaminarimon and Hozomon
Kaminarimon and Hozomon are the two main gates of Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa’s crowning glory. The two gates stand at the head and tail of Nakamise-dori, a shopping street bursting with all manner of souvenirs and knick-knacks and which ultimately leads to the temple itself. Both gates are mightily impressive; great hulking structures in striking red, white and black which never fail to capture the imagination of visitors. Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) is the outer gate of the temple and is instantly distinguishable by the giant red paper lantern, or chochin, that hangs from its centre. At the other end, Hozomon (Treasure House Gate) is flanked by two fearsome statues there to ward off any unwanted visitors to the temple.
9. Senso-ji Temple
Pass through the two gates and you’ll be confronted with the spectacular Senso-ji Temple. The oldest and perhaps the grandest in Tokyo, Senso-ji never fails to impress. The complex is made up of various different buildings and pagodas that can be wandered around at your leisure. During the day, huge crowds descend on the temple, lending it a wonderfully lively atmosphere. Once the sun sets, however, the crowds dissipate to reveal Senso-ji’s calmer side.
For a more in-depth look, take a look at our guide: Senso-Ji Temple – The Oldest in Tokyo.
10. Asakusa Shrine (Sanja-sama)
Located on Senso-ji’s east side, Asakusa Shrine is a tribute to the three founders of its neighbour. Built in 1649, the shrine is a rare example of early Edo architecture and holds one of Tokyo’s most important festivals, May’s Sanja Matsuri. Often missed by tourists, Asakusa Shrine is a lot quieter than Senso-ji and although smaller, there’s plenty to see.
11. Nakamise Dori
As mentioned, linking Kaminorimon and Hozomon is Nakamise-dori, a traditional shopping street par excellence. Nakamise-dori specialises in traditional Japanese souvenirs of all kinds, from fans, tea and wooden novelties to cheesy t-shirts and candy. The street throngs with memento hungry tourists, making traversing the long, narrow strip quite a challenge if you’re in a hurry. My advice, take your time and take it all in.
A stretch of road between Asakusa and Ueno, Kappabashi-dori is perhaps the world’s only kitchenware themed sightseeing spot. Historically, the street has been where chefs and restauranteurs have descended to kit themselves out with everything from chopsticks to fridge-freezers and it remains so today. However, more recently, Kappabashi-dori has begun to attract scores of tourists, lured by the truly vast array of wares on offer. Browse shops dedicated to traditional pottery, knives, fake plastic food and chopsticks and grab the chance to pick up a few souvenirs for the budding chef in your life. The giant moustachioed chef will let you know you’ve arrived.
Address: 3-18-2 Matsugaya, Taito, Tokyo
13. Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya
Located in the heart of Kappabashi, Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya is Japan’s number one retailer of plastic food. You won’t fail to notice this mock cuisine outside of restaurants in Japan; swirls of spaghetti, steaming ramen, sushi, anything at all can be immortalised in plastic. Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya, cottoning onto the tourist boom, now sells an array of souvenir items to take home and even offers tutorials in the fine art of fake plastic food in its upstairs workshop.
Sun-Sat 10:00 – 17:30
14. Asakusa Shopping
If you’ve got a few yen to spare, there’s no better spot than Asakusa. This is the place where you can take care of your souvenir shopping in one fell swoop; where you can load up your suitcase with anything and everything. Traditional items are Asakusa’s speciality, things like matcha (green tea), sake, weird snacks, fabric and clothing being particularly visible as you walk around.
For a full rundown of everything shopping related, take a look at Asakusa Shopping – Top 12 Shopping Spots in Asakusa.
15. Amuse Museum
Asakusa’s Amuse Museum is dedicated to the promotion, preservation and understanding of Japanese culture in its many forms. The museum’s permanent collection, ‘Boro’, includes many authentic Edo garments as well as memorabilia from Akira Kurosawa’s late magic-realism masterpiece, Dreams. Spread over six floors, the Amuse Museum is a varied and rewarding experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Tue-Sun 10:00 – 18:00 (Closed on Monday)
16. Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum
This small but interesting museum dedicates itself to local crafts and art, of which it has an impressive collection. Find here block prints, intricate embroidery, scale models of shrines and temples, silverware and Edo sashimono (furniture made without the need for screws or nails) among much, much more. Although lacking some of the gimmicks of more contemporary museums, if you want to learn a thing or two about Edo Japan, you could do far worse than checking out the Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum.
Sun-Sat 10:00 – 20:00
17. Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten (Taiko Drum Museum)
Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten is the Bösendorfer of taiko drum manufacturers, a brand with deep roots and an immaculate reputation. As well as drums, the company also specialises in other traditional instruments and portable shrines used in festivals. On the second floor find the world’s first (or so they claim) drum museum.
10:00 – 17:00
18. Asakusa Batting Stadium
Shrines and museums are great but perhaps you’re more into swinging a big stick around for a while? If so, get yourself down to the Asakusa Batting Stadium. Although not as educational as some of Asakusa’s other tourist sites, you probably won’t care when the mechanical pitcher gets going. Open until 1 am nightly and easily recognisable by the giant baseball glove out front.
Sun-Sat 10:30 – 01:00
19. The Escape Hunt Experience Tokyo Asakusa
If being locked in a room for an hour sounds like your idea of a good time, this one’s for you. The Escape Hunt Experience gives visitors the opportunity to test out their problem-solving abilities by setting them a series of challenges to be overcome using clues and logic. Once you’ve chosen your theme (ever-changing but top picks in the past have included ‘runaway bride’ and ‘samurai espionage’) and difficulty level (beginner, intermediate, advanced) you’ll be locked in a room and the timer will start. One hour to escape. Don’t worry, if your mind turns to mush under pressure, the staff are on hand to point you in the right direction.
Sun-Sat 10:00 – 19:00
20. Hanayashiki Amusement Park
Built in 1853, Hanayashiki is the oldest amusement park in Japan. Thankfully, the park seems as if it’s maintained with care, meaning the only frights you’ll be having will be entirely intentional. Crammed into an impressively tiny space, the park somehow packs in an impressive selection of rides. Suitable for kids and adults alike and cheap to get in, give Hanayashiki a go if you begin to tire of all that culture.
Sun-Sat 10:00 – 18:00
21. Kimono and Tea Ceremony Experience: Nadeshiko
Don a Kimono and drink some matcha – what could be more Japanese? The Nadeshiko Kimono and Tea Ceremony promises full immersion in classical Japanese culture, an experience that may be very welcome after a few days in bustling modern Tokyo. Prices are pretty reasonable and it’s something you surely won’t forget in a hurry.
Fri-Tue 11:00 – 17:00 (Closed on Wednesday and Thursday)
22. Samurai and Ninja Experience: Yumenoya Asakusa
Indulge all your wildest cultural cliches about Japan with this samurai and ninja experience. You’ll be kitted out in all the gear and given hands-on fighting and swordsmanship training that can’t fail to come in handy at some point. Give it try, your inner child is begging you to.
23. Asakusa Engei Hall
Asakusa was once known for its abundance of great theatres. Today, only one remains, the Asakusa Engei Hall in the heart of the Koen Rokku entertainment district beside Senso-ji Temple. Although best known for its fantastic Rakugo (traditional storytelling by a single person on stage) performances, also catch here a mixed back of other acts, from acrobatics to magic. The theatre holds daily afternoon and evening performances and charges just 2,500 yen for entry.
Sun-Sat 09:00 – 21:00
24. Asakusa Onsen: Jakotsuyu Sento
If you’re after a traditional onsen experience but can’t be bothered to leave the capital, you’re in luck, Jakotsuyu Sento in the heart of Asakusa has you covered. Although this onsen is very tourist friendly (including English on the ticketing machine), its vibe is nicely local, the interior of a classic design and it’s abundantly laid back. Evidenced, for one, by the rare policy of allowing tattoos. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also cheap; a soak will set you back just 460 yen.
For more onsens around the city, check out Onsens in Tokyo – Relax Your Mind, Body and Soul.
Wed-Mon 13:00 – 24:00 (Closed on Tuesday)
25. Asakusa Imahan
Hands down one of the best restaurants in Asakusa, if you’ve got an empty stomach and a few yen to spare, Asakusa Imahan is the place for you. In business since 1895, the restaurant was one of Tokyo’s first to serve up premium Wagyu beef shabu-shabu, a dish, for those that are unaware, that involves cooking thinly sliced meat and vegetables in boiling hot water. The quality of the beef is the thing that keeps people coming back time and time again.
Sun-Sat 11:30 – 21:30
26. Namiki Yabusoba
If preparing soba noodles is an artform, Namiki Yabusoba is akin to the Louvre or Carnegie Hall. This tiny soba shop a stone’s throw from Senso-ji Temple has changed little since Edo times and we wouldn’t have it any other way, for, within its walls, the chefs serve up some of the finest noodles in town. Diners have a choice of two dishes: hot or cold, a decision best decided by the conditions outside. Whichever you choose, the simple but refined taste won’t disappoint.
Fri-Wed 11:00 – 19:30 (Closed on Thursday)
27. Komagata Dozeu
For authentic Edo food in an authentic Edo setting, Komagata Dozeu can’t be bettered. One of the specialities here, Dojo-nabe, a hotpot style dish of dojo-loaches (don’t worry, it’s a type of fish) and vegetables is not to be missed, however, you can’t really go wrong with whatever you choose. Be aware, though, if you’re not willing to broaden your culinary horizons a little, it may be best to sit this place out.
Sun-Sat 11:00 – 21:00
Another old-time joint, this time one specialising in oden, a type of traditional Japanese stew. Once inside the small shack-like restaurant you’ll find a big old pot boiling on the counter from which diners can pick and choose what they want. Budget travellers can stick to the okra and kelp, whilst those with a few more yen to spare can splash out on a bit of seafood. The atmosphere is friendly and the food a treat.
Mon-Sat 17:00 – 23:00 (Closed on Monday from March to November)
Sun 12:00 – 14:00, 16:00 – 22:00 (Nov-Feb) / 17:00 – 22:00 (Mar-Oct)
29. Onigiri Asakusa Yadoroku
Fast-food Japanese-style, onigiri,. For as little as 100 yen, onigiri can be picked up at any convenience store, something that every budget traveller can appreciate. Yet, one thing that Japan loves is transforming the simple into the sublime. This is what you’ll find at Yadoroku, Tokyo’s first dedicated onigiri store in the heart of Asakusa. The rice is perfect, the fillings tasty and the prices cheap.
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri & Sat 11:30 – 17:00, 18:00 – 02:00
Wed 11:30 – 17:00
Sun 18:00 – 02:00
Ever heard of melon-pan? No, well, let me explain. Melon-pan is a buttery bread bun-type creation which has become nationally popular and which, despite the name, features no melon whatsoever. Convenience store melon-pan are common, filling and cheap. Yet, until you’ve tried melon-pan from Kagesudo, you haven’t really tried it at all. The crispy crust, fluffy core and buttery taste is to die for, and, although more expensive than from a convenience store, at 200 yen a pop, you won’t be complaining.
Sun-Sat 10:00 – (while stock lasts, typically ~16:00)
31. Kamiya Bar
Established back in the 1900s, Kamiya Bar was one of Tokyo’s first Western-style drinking holes. Although the strangely sterile decor could be slightly offputting for the first time visitor, the buoyant, booze-fuelled atmosphere offsets it nicely. Try the intimidatingly large ‘large’ beers or Denki Bran, a wine, gin and brandy fusion that will soon warm you up on a winter’s evening.
Wed-Mon 11:30 – 22:00 (Closed on Tuesday)
32. Hoppy Street (Dori)
Traditionally the refuelling station for patrons of the nearby racetrack, Hoppy Street (Hoppy-dori) has in recent years transformed into Asakusa’s liveliest nightlife location. The street, whilst not huge, is packed with bars and izakaya that extend out onto the street (even in the winter), lending it an always convivial atmosphere perfect for a spot of bar-hopping. The competition along Hoppy Street means prices are reasonable and most places stay open pretty late.
Address: 2-12-4 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo
33. Asakusa Oiwake
Part izakaya, part live house, Asakusa Oiwake guarantees good times. The name of the game here is traditional Japanese folk music played on the shamisen, a banjo-esque instrument with a unique sound. There are normally three shamisen performances each day which can be enjoyed while snacking on typical izakaya fare such as sashimi, fried chicken and nabe (stew).
Tue-Sun 17:30 – 23:00 (Closed on Monday)
3-28-11 Nishi-Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo
34. Bird and Owl Cafe: Torinoiru
Japan is the birthplace of the animal cafe, a concept which has caught on like wildfire all over the world. Torinoiru, a subterranean cafe in Asakusa, is where you can enjoy a coffee in the company of all manner of birds, from sleepy owls to animated parrots. Whilst this may not be everybody’s idea of a good time, those with a soft spot for our feathered friends will find much to love.
For more owl cafes around the city, check out Tokyo Owl Cafes – The City’s 10 Best.
Mon-Fri 13:00 – 20:00
Sat&Sun 11:00 – 20:00
35. Panda Cafe (ぱんだカフェ)
Travelling in Japan with small children can sometimes be exhausting. Whilst there is plenty to keep families entertained, the compact nature of a city like Tokyo means that restaurants and cafes can all too often have little room for kids to run around or to park a stroller. If this rings true, head to Asakusa’s Panda Cafe. Designed specifically with kids and families in mind, the cafe has ample room to manoeuvre, a playpen for the little ones and even a heated outdoor terrace. The menu is international in flavour and full of treats to keep everybody happy.
For more family-friendly activities in Tokyo, check out our article: Things to Do in Tokyo with Family.
Sun-Sat 11:00 – 23:00
36. Cat Cafe Asakusa Cat Gardens (Nekoen)
For obvious reasons, the interior, food and drink of cat cafe’s often take a backseat to the animals themselves. Whilst the cats are clearly happy and well looked after at Cat Cafe Asakusa Cat Gardens, the cafe has also been injected with bags of style and a menu that could put many non-cat cafes to shame. The sociable felines and friendly staff don’t go a miss, however.
For more cat cafes and the like, check out Cat and Animal Cafes in Tokyo.
Wed-Mon 11:00 – 21:00 (Closed on Tuesday)
37. Asakusa Restaurants
Finding good food in Tokyo isn’t a problem, especially so in Asakusa. The district brims with restaurants of all kinds; from the cheap and simple to the high-end.
Stroll around the area and you’ll come across a plethora of fine eateries, but for something more specific, take a look at our guide: Asakusa Restaurants – The Ultimate Asakusa Food Guide.
38. Sakura Hostel Asakusa
Hostels are the standard option for travellers across the world, however, Japan seems to be a little behind everybody else on this one. Hostels, whilst rare, do exist, Sakura Hostel Asakusa, the largest in the city, being proof of this. The vibe is international, the rates reasonable and the location hard to beat. Rooms to accommodate individuals, groups and families are all available.
For more accommodation options in Asakusa, check out our guide: Where to Stay in Asakusa – Asakusa Hotel Guide.
39. Asakusa Events and Festivals
Asakusa buzzes with life every day of the year, yet, to see it at its apex, you’ll need to plan a trip to coincide with one of the area’s many annual events and festivals.
Below are some of the most popular festivals in Asakusa:
40. Sanja Matsuri
Usually taking place over the third weekend of May, Sanja Matsuri is Asakusa’s largest and most popular annual festival. A celebration of the three legendary founders of Senso-ji Temple who are enshrined in the adjacent Asakusa Shrine. The festival’s main event is a huge parade featuring over 100 portable shrines, countless revellers in traditional dress, priests, music and dancers. The weekend sees everybody in the highest of spirits and is not to be missed.
3rd weekend of every May
41. Asakusa Samba Carnival
Perhaps surprisingly, Brazil and Japan share close links, a fact the Asakusa Samba Carnival celebrates. Every year, the usually steadfastly Japanese district transforms into a little slice of Rio as 18 teams of samba dancers battle it out to claim their place as Tokyo’s best. Expect a whole load of feathers, neons, skimpy costumes and fun. This year’s event kicks off on August 27th from 13:00 – don’t miss out.
42. Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival
Japan loves fireworks and its firework artists (yes, artists) are among the best in the world. To see what the cream of the crop can do, there’s no better opportunity than the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival. The event pits some of the best fireworks technicians against each other, with each taking it in turns to show-off and outdo the others from opposite sides of the river. Typically, the spectacle lasts for over an hour so a few preparatory neck exercises are strongly recommended. Crowds of over a million are common, so get there early to bag a good viewing spot.
Along the Sumida River by Asakusa
Want more from Tokyo? What to see, what to do, what to eat and all the vital info? Compathy Magazine has everything you need and more: