Walking Tour: Shitamachi
- Start Asakusa Station, exit 4
- End Ef
- Length 2.5km; 2½ hours, plus lunch
This walk takes in the major sights in Asakusa, while giving you a feel for the flavour of Shitamachi (the old Edo-era ‘Low City’). First head over to Azuma-bashi. Originally built in 1774, it was once the point of departure for boat trips to the Yoshiwara pleasure district, north of Asakusa. From here you can get a good look at the golden flame of Asahi Super Dry Hall and giant Tokyo Sky Tree, both across the river.
Retrace your steps to Kaminari-mon, the entrance to the grand temple complex Sensō-ji. Spend some time exploring the temple's highlights. Afterwards, walk past the old-school amusement park Hanayashiki, an Asakusa fixture since 1853.
Next take a detour up the covered arcade to the Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum, where you can see the work of local artisans. Then head down the lane called Hoppy-dōri, lined with yakitori stalls. Go on, have a few skewers and a beer.
Pop over to look at lantern-lit Asakusa Engei Hall, one of the few surviving vaudeville halls that were once common here. The theatre is part of the Rokku district of Asakusa, a famous (and famously bawdy) entertainment zone during the century before WWII. Pay a visit to vintage store Tokyo Hotarudo, where the goods pay homage to this era, when Asakusa was thought of as the Montmartre of Tokyo.
If you resisted the charms of Hoppy-dōri, you can have a meal at Daikokuya, an old-school tempura restaurant, along Dembō-in-dōri, a strip with crafty stores. Don't miss the centuries-old comb store Yonoya Kushiho.
Take one of the roads parallel to Nakamise – a world away from the tourist hordes – and finish up at Ef, a cafe in a 19th-century wooden warehouse.