Seeking calm in Tokyo’s Asakusa neighborhood


One of the small gardens just to the side of Senso-Ji. Much calmer over here away from the crowds.

Like many big cities Tokyo is no single experience or vibe. Who you see, how you feel and what you experience is based in large part on where you are in town and who else is there with you. The Asakusa neighborhood is dominated by the Senso-Ji temple and that drives much of the activity in the area. Once you get past the hum of activity from the merchants on the main path leading up to the temple grounds things calm down a lot. At least as much as they can when visiting the oldest temple in town which is a major tourist destination.

A brief moment of calm prayer
A brief moment of calm prayer

The temple itself is impressive and, while calmer than the normal street scene, there is definitely a feeling of activity and almost a “rush” of people working their way through to pray and then get on with their day. That is a somewhat challenging balance to strike with the tourists and those who are there truly for reflection and introspection, but it mostly works.

Cleansing in preparation to pray
Cleansing in preparation to pray

Also, while most were focused on the main room inside the temple I chose to look up and was greeted with a great collection of murals on the ceiling.

Looking up in the Senso-Ji temple; some incredible paintings on the ceiling.
Looking up in the Senso-Ji temple; some incredible paintings on the ceiling.

Beyond the main temple is a small park area which, like most gardens in Japan, is elegantly planted and well manicured.

One of the small gardens just to the side of Senso-Ji. Much calmer over here away from the crowds.
One of the small gardens just to the side of Senso-Ji. Much calmer over here away from the crowds.

Having had our fill of temple time we roamed out into the Asakusa neighborhood to explore a bit more. Not all of the merchants were open on this particular morning which gave us the opportunity to judge some of the art on the security gates.

I'm both happy and sad this place was closed. Awesome art but I wanted fried chicken.
I’m both happy and sad this place was closed. Awesome art but I wanted fried chicken.

Asakusa happens to be one of the few neighborhoods I feel like I “know” in Tokyo thanks to having stayed nearby on a couple prior trips. Still, there is always something new and fun to see and on this particular trip we went to the Taiko Kan Drum Museum. This is not your typical “walk around and look at things” museum. Rather, many of the drums are tagged with a musical note on them indicating that you can play it if you want. Perhaps we were fortunate that there were only four of us inside during our visit; I can see how it would get quite raucous inside were a large group visiting. But it was a lot of fun to play the various drums from around the world, including a few Japanese Taiko drums.

All sorts of drum sticks available in the museum shop
All sorts of drum sticks available in the museum shop

From there we wandered westward, taking in a few smaller temples and otherwise exploring the neighborhood. I do enjoy that sort of exploration in general, though this particular walk didn’t yield much which was particularly special or photogenic. Still a nice (and necessary) way to move on towards our next stop.

More posts from the Japan 2015 Vacation

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

2 Comments

  1. Asakusa was the neighborhood in which I stayed in a traditional ryokan.

    Thank you for bringing back memories for me, Seth. I hope you enjoyed your trip…

  2. Japan has been brought to life by your frequent trip reports from there and we intend to visit again and again.
    We stayed in Shinjuku and while it was modern and convenient, we intend to stay in a more traditional area next time.

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