Asakusa is one of the neighborhoods of Tokyo that’s in virtually every book about the capital city. And why wouldn’t it be? With the impressive Sensō-ji Temple, obscure sculptures, and attractive Japanese men in loincloths pulling expensive rickshaws, Asakusa has a little bit of something for everyone. Here are our top 10 things to do in Asakusa to make the most of your time there.
1. Take a peek from the top
Why pay money to go to the top of Tokyo Tower or Tokyo Sky Tree when you can see it all for free from the eighth floor of the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center? While the place isn’t exactly teeming with information about Asakusa, it is a lovely building designed by Kengo Kuma that has a free veranda offering awesome views of Sensō-ji Temple, Nakamise-dōri, Tokyo Sky Tree and the Tokyo skyline (though the Golden Poo has now been blocked by a block of offices).
2. Explore Nakamise-dōri
Nakamise-dōri is the 250-meter long shopping street between the Kaminarimon and Hozomon gates of Sensō-ji Temple. Follow the signs to the temple and you won’t have any trouble spotting it. The narrow street is lined with close to 100 shops that sell everything from snacks to souvenirs and seriously fancy chopsticks. It can be crowded, but is a great place to do some browsing and get gift ideas.
There are also many other old-style shopping streets in Asakusa that are a little quieter (and more local) than Nakamise Shopping Street. Our recommendations are Denbōin-dōri and Kappabashi Street, for those who love kitchenware.
Pro tip: Book a local guide to show you the best spots in Asakusa.
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3. Sample traditional Japanese snacks like Ningyōyaki
Ningyōyaki, or Japanese snack cakes, are tasty local treats. They are made by pouring batter into intricate molds (ranging from fish and lantern-shaped to more themed Hello Kitty molds). In the center is usually a nice dollop of sweet red bean paste. It’s fun just to watch but it’s even better to try it yourself.
There are actually plenty of snacks to satiate your sweet tooth in Asakusa — like delicious melon pan. Find out more about them in our Asakusa sweets guide!
4. Get your fortune told
Try your luck with an O-mikuji. Simply put, O-mikuji are strips of paper that supposedly tell your future. After you “donate” 100 yen into the box near the O-mikuji station at Sensō-ji Temple, you are able to draw a stick that corresponds to your fortune slip. If you get a good fortune, keep it. If you get a bad fortune, you can tie it on the nearby pole, tree, or rack to make sure it doesn’t follow you back home.
5. Rent a Kimono
A common sight you’ll see around Asakusa are either couples or groups of friends donned in kimono or yukata depending on the season. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about Japanese culture and the best part is that it isn’t too expensive to rent. While there are places dotted all across the city that offer kimono rentals, Asakusa has got to be one of the most picturesque places to try it out.
6. Say a little prayer at Sensō-ji Temple
During the busy seasons at Sensō-ji Temple (basically any time in the evening, on a weekend, or a national holiday), it’s fun to be jostled to the front of throngs of people to toss 5 coin into the collection box. Afterwards, you bow and pray. As far as cultural events go, they don’t get any simpler than this. If you’re worried about the order of which to do first, just watch what the people ahead in line do.
7. Café hop around Asakusa
There’s more to Asakusa than the temples and shopping street, and before leaving we recommend you explore not just the historical landmarks but also the hole-in-the-wall cafés that line the backstreets of this colorful district. From traditional themed cafés to award winning latte art baristas, there’s a café for every coffee lover waiting just around the corner. If you’re feeling up to it, take a stroll past the busy area of Asakusa and head down to Kuramae for a more local feel. Have a look at our dedicated Asakusa café hopping guide for more information.
8. Giggle at the golden turd
You can’t leave Asakusa without a glance (and a photo) at the landmark “golden turd”, officially known as the flame atop the headquarters of Asahi (yep, the beer people). Unofficial word on the street is they had one too many of their own brew before coming up with the sculpture. You’ll notice that the building next door resembles a beer mug. Also golden.
9. Check out the Sanja Festival (in May)
In May you can attend one of the city’s three major Shinto festivals, which is truly a sight to behold. The Sanja Matsuri is a wild celebration that involves tattooed men jousting with portable shrines in the streets of Asakusa. Oh, and two million spectators. You’ve got to see it to believe it. Plan ahead to make the most out of your festival going experience.
10. Hop on over to Hoppy Street
Hoppy Street is filled from noon to night with folks chowing down on bowls of stew and downing bottles of Hoppy, the nostalgic, post-war drink. Whoever said Asakusa is dead at night hasn’t been here. If the weather isn’t suited for open-air izakaya, try visiting Asakusa Yokocho on the same street. While not harboring the same atmosphere, the neon lights and pop art are great for photos (go just for the toilets).
If you want to squeeze some other areas into your trip to Asakusa, you might enjoy this suggested itinerary for a walking tour that takes in Ginza and more. And if you’re looking for places to stay, this guide to Asakusa accommodation is a good place to start.
Looking for fun things to do in other parts of Tokyo? Here’s a guide to free activities in Harajuku, and another one dedicated to free things to do in Shibuya. You can also check out our epic list of 101 things to do in Tokyo.
This post was first published in March 2018 by Grace Buchele Mineta. Last updated in May 2022 by Heidi Sarol.