Asakusa is ‘shitamachi’ – the traditional, low-rise, down and dirty Tokyo of yesteryear. Although on the surface it’s ye olde Japan, this was the first part of the capital to have significant western influence. It was even the site of Japan’s first cinema. Asakusa is a great place to stay if you’re on a budget – it’s a little distant from the central Tokyo attractions but it provides a relaxing quiet oasis at the end of the day.
Atrractions in the area include one of Tokyo’s most historic temples – Sensoji, and the impressive Kaminari Gate that marks the entranceway to the temple. Also you can’t miss Phillip Stark’s ‘Golden Poo’ on the roof of the nearby Asahi Breweries headquarters.
As a place to live, it’s considerably cheaper than places in central Tokyo and also has a large number of “guest houses” catering for foreign residents. In the words of Akasaka resident Tim Vodden, “One good thing about living in Asakusa is being in the midst of a great number traditional Japanese cultural festivities. Whether it’s experiencing the bartering for lucky rakes during the Tori-no-ichi, seeing the portable shrines of the Sanja matsuri shaken through the backstreets and alleyways, or experiencing the golden dragon dance at Sensou-ji temple, Asakusa consistently offers brief glimpses into its storied Edo past. On the surface, the neighbourhood may appear drab and grey, dense with endless mid-rise apartment blocks, but there is always something new to discover down the next lane. It might be a legendary soba shop, a miniscule monjayaki restaurant run by a dear-old obaasan, or a glance at an elegant maiko in an expensive kimono shuffling her geta to her next appointment. Asakusa doesn’t have the flash and glamour of the other major Tokyo hubs, but it’s a great place to live. It’s a neighbourhood of hidden treasures.”