Asakusa

Umezono

Umezono

Established back in the first year of Ansei, or 1854, Baion started as a tea shop at one corner of Baion-in, a part of the Sensoji temple complex. At that time, Baion-in was filled with plum trees, hence the shop name “Umezono,” meaning plum garden. One of the most famous item on the menu here is awazenzai. It is so famous that it is even referred to in the novel “Odoriko” by the Japanese literary giant Kafuu Nagai.

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Funawa

Funawa

Funawa is a historic Japanese confectionery that opened in 1902. Back in those days, traditional yokan or the “neri yokan,” was very expensive and was out of reach for most people. Funawa's founder, Wasuke Kobayashi, a potato wholesaler from Kotobuki-cho, Asakusa, and a Japanese confectioner Sadakichi Ishikawa, also from Asakusa, decided to create an alternative. Setting their eyes on readily available sweet potatoes, they experimented with different varieties, steaming methods, and perfected the amount of sugar to come up with “imo yokan,” or the sweet potato yokan, Funawa's signature item. Following year in 1903, first ever “mitsumame” was served at Funawa in a modern Western-style silverware with cubed agar, apricot, “gyuhi,” and red peas, topped with a choice of white or black syrup. “Anko Dama,” or bean paste balls, with not-too-sweet bean paste surrounded by agar, are also very popular.

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Kamiya Bar

Kamiya Bar

Kamiya Bar is the first bar to open in Japan. The bar was started by Denbei Kamiya in 1880. The signature cocktail, the “Denki Buran,” was created here more than 120 years ago. The current building, which was built in 1921, is considered as an Asakusa landmark and is designated as a national tangible cultural property. The bar makes appearances in famous Japanese novels such as Osamu Dazai's “Ningen Shikkaku,” or “No Longer Human” and Masuji Ibuse's “Kakemochi.” It is a place to visit when you want to immerse yourself in Asakusa's downtown culture.

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Sansada

Sansada

Sansada is the oldest known tempura restaurant in Japan, with its establishment dating back to 1837. It is also known as the birthplace of “ten-don” or tempura bowl. Sansada was made famous by the catch phrase “One is for Asakusa, two is for the Kannon, and three is for Sansada's tempura.” The restaurant has continued to serve, for over 170 years, the traditional Edo-style tempura, deep frying in sesame oil various seafood from waters off Tokyo. The tempura here is so tasty, especially “Nakakaki-don,” a rice bowl topped with large mixed tempura of small shrimp, squid and “kobashira,” that fans from all over Japan flock to this restaurant for their deep fried treats.

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Daikokuya

Daikokuya

Daikokuya is an old tempura restaurant that opened in 1887. Originally started as a soba restaurant at the current location of the main restaurant on the bustling Denpoin Street, the place was always busy, but barely made profit. Realizing that money was good when they sold many tempura soba, the owners decided to covert the eatery to specialize in tempura at the end of the Meiji period. Known for the rich broth that has been passed down since the soba restaurant days, “ebi ten-don,” or shrimp tempura bowl, is the number one seller on the menu with four large shrimp tempura deep fried in 100% premium sesame oil. The floor of the old wooden structure is tiled to create a retro-modern feel.

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Fujiya

Fujiya

This hand towel shop in Asakusa began its history in 1946. Each towel is handcrafted in a traditional method that has been passed down since the store's beginning. In the store, you will find many varieties of hand towels in both seasonal and traditional patterns. The towels here have the comfortable feel of cotton textiles which will soften and increase absorbency with each use. The hand towels can be used not only to wipe sweat off your face, but also can be framed to be enjoyed as works of art, and used as textiles to be made into completely different products. In the recent years, the towels are popularly used as gift wrappers. Items from Fujiya are ideal for souvenir for domestic and overseas visitors alike.

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Kaminari Mon

Kaminari Mon

The Kaminari Mon is the gateway to the Sensoji temple. When facing the front of the red-painted gate, you will notice the powerful Wind God to the right and the Lightning God to the left of the gate. From the center of the gate hangs a 700kg lantern, making the gate one of the most noticeable Asakusa landmark. The official name of the gate is “Fuujin Raijin Mon,” meaning the gate of the wind and the lightning gods. Written on the lantern is “Fuuraijin Mon,” the abbreviated name of the gate. The original gate was built by Kinmasa Taira in the year 942 near present day Komagata area. It was relocated to the present location after the Kamakura period, with the Wind and the Lightning Gods dedicated at that time. The two gods were placed initially to protect the temple grounds from wind, water, and fire damage, but it is believed that their divine powers were later extended to pray for peaceful weather and rich harvest. The current gate was rebuilt in 1960 by Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of Matsushita Electric Co., 95 years after the structure was lost the Great Tawara-machi fire on December 12, 1865.

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Nakamise

Nakamise

The Nakamise covers the length of approximately 250m from Sensoji's Kaminari Mon to the Hozo Mon gates and is considered the oldest shopping street in Japan. Until the founding of the Edo Shogunate by Ieyasu Tokugawa, Edo was just an ordinary city in the Kanto region. Population explosion occurred after the establishment of the shogunate, and with that, the number of visitors to Sensoji skyrocketed. To combat the growing trash problems, the shogunate government granted people exclusive business permits to operate on the entrance path to the temple in exchange for cleaning the temple grounds. This is said to be the start of the Nakamise. In the Edo period, the shops near Denpo-in and the Niou Mon were called “Yakudana,” comprised 20 tea shops, and the toy, confection, and gift shops near the Kaminari Mon were called the “Hiramise.” The number of shops grew steadily to make the Nakamise one of the most organized shopping district in all of Japan. After the Meiji Restoration, the government took away business rights from the shops on the Nakamise, and renewed the street with red-brick buildings. Those were lost during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, but steel-framed concrete buildings were later built by the local people to bring back the lovely shopping distrcit. Today, 89 shops line the Nakamise, 54 to the east and 39 to the west, each selling items such as souvenirs, toys, crafts, Japanese accessories, and umbrellas.

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Hozo Mon (Niou Mon)

Hozo Mon (Niou Mon)

The Hozo Mon was a gift from Mr. Yonetaro Otani and was built in 1964 as a replacement to the old Niou Mon, which was originally erected in 942 by Kimasa Taira, the Protector of Musashi. It was called the Niou Mon because the gate was guarded on both left and right sides by the Kongourikishi or Niou statues, but since the most recent rebuilding, it has been called the Hozo Mon. True to its name, the upper part of the gate is a storage for cultural artifacts, and items such as a national treasure “Hokekyo” and designated important cultural properties “Genbandaizoukyo” and “Genbanissaikyo” are stored there. Of the two Kongorikishi statues, the one west of the gate is called “Agyo” and was made by buddist statue artist Shinkan Nishikido, and the one on the east side is called “Ungyo” and was made by a wood carver Kyusaku Muraoka. It is said that the “”Agyo” and the “Ungyo” statues were modeled after sumo wrestlers Kitanoumi and Myoubudani, respectively. Two massive straw sandals hang on the back of the gate to ward off evil spirits. They were gifts from a support group from Murayama City, Yamagata Prefecture, Kyusaku Muraoka's hometown. Straw sandals are made from 2,500kg of straw. The center lantern says “Kobuna-cho,” indicating that it was a gift from the people of Kobuna-cho, Nihonbashi, as were the lantern-shaped metal accessories decorating both sides of the gate.

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Sensoji

Sensoji

Sensoji, the oldest buddist temple in Tokyo, was established in 628. The temple's honorific mountain name is “Kinryuzan.” The principal image of the temple is Sho Kanzeon Bosatsu, or the Sacred Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of mercy and salvation, and it has been saving people for almost 1400 years. The temple originally belonged to the Tendai buddist sect, but later became independent after the end of World War II to become the head temple of the Sho Kannon sect. Because of the principal image being the Sho Kannon Bosatsu, the temple is commonly referred to as “Asakusa Kannon” or “Asakusa's Kannon-sama.” During the Great Tokyo Air Raid of 1945, most of the temple complex was burnt to the ground, except for the Niten Mon and Denpo-in, but the main building and the five-story pagoda were rebuilt after the war. The famous Kaminari Mon gate, with its iconic massive lantern, was also rebuilt in 1960 as a gift from Konosuke Matsushita, with steel-framed concrete construction. The approach to the temple, the Nakamise, is lined with shops selling the famous Kaminari Okoshi, fried manju, and the Ningyo Yaki. The temple is loved by many people with the number of visitors reaching approximately 30 million per year.

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