If I have to rank the many tourist destinations in Tokyo and give you the place that should be on the top list of any tourist with the ambition to see Tokyo, it is easily the Asakusa district. I have blogged about this part of the city and the fantastically colorful Sensoji (Tokyo’s first and grandest temple) many times before but I just can’t help myself from pulling up the camera whenever I pass. Everytime I visit I have the ambition to find the odd little spots I have missed earlier, to go for details rather than large open views but I always get blown away by the colors and size of everything. Asakusa is easily the second greatest city attraction (ok, technically the greatest but Gion in Kyoto still wins for pure charm, beauty and dignity) in Japan. You can make several little trips (the place changes atmosphere and color so much during the day) or spend an entire day here from morning to midnight. Luckily most of Tokyo’s backpacker hostels are in the area. Use the tags at the bottom of the post to find more posts about Asakusa!
The many gates of the temple are fantastically photogenic, and the nearby bridge over Sumida river tends to be a popular photo spot with tourists and locals. One local lady even decided to climb the bridge pillars to get a better view! Next to the famous Kaminarimon you’ll also find the number one souvenir associated with the gate: Kaminariokoshi. In the last photo you’ll see a couple checking out the shop just before closing one evening a few weeks ago.
Not having a dog myself I am always amazed by how difficult dogs are to photograph. Cats, humans, monkeys, even foxes, are comparatively easy. They will look at anyone getting their attention whereas dogs will only focus on their owner. I stopped a man out walking his cute little dog at the Sanja Matsuri, the huge festival in Asakusa, as I had to get some photos of the great little festival gear. As much as the owner tried the dog just would not look anywhere else. Well, at least the old saying “man’s best friend” is true. If I ever get lonely I will get a dog, and dress him up like this!
I have visited a couple of cat cafes and even a dog cafe or two here in Tokyo but this bunny cafe in Tokyo’s premier tourist district Asakusa was a new one for me! Ms. Bunny (apparently there is also a store in Roppongi) offers the cat cafe treatment, only with bunnies! They also offer bunny hotels (over night service if you need to go out of town and there’s no-one to look after your furry little friend for you), also the usual bunny spa specials, claw cutting, grooming etc. The whole building, all three floors have been converted and if you are an animal lover suffering from a lack of pets why not try something new and nuzzle up to a bunny while enjoying jazz music and some ice tea? I happened to pass a little late in the evening, but someday I’ll have to try it out. The price for a cafe visit is 500 yen per 30 minutes and there’s even an option to rent a bunny if you are feeling lonely over the weekend. There are markets for everything indeed! More information on their website here.
Last night was the annual Tourounagashi (灯篭流し) ceremony at the huge Sensoji temple in Tokyo’s Asakusa district. It takes place during Obon, which is the traditional time for Japanese people to tend their ancestral graves, remember the relatives who came before them and pray and give offerings to their ancestors. At the temple, the Tourounagashi ceremony is part of that tradition and buddhist monks chant over the ceremony as lay people let painted paper lanterns slide into Sumida river, carrying prayers for peace and rest for their deceased loved ones. Even deceased pets can be honored in this way. The ceremony in Tokyo is not very big, the more famous ones are held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as Obon coincides with the a-bomb remembrances over there. Other famous ones are held in Fukui, Kyoto, Niigata and Yokohama.
Not to worry about pollution and littering, this being Japan all the lanterns are collected as the are carried by the wind along the river by volunteer boat teams making sure not to add to the trash in the river. Speaking of trash, in the years I have lived in Tokyo the river has actually become markedly cleaner. I see less garbage and more birds in the river than before.
The quay from which the lanterns were launched were packed with people so I had to be content with staying up on the embankment. Maybe next time I’ll join the people offering lanterns and prayers.
As a bonus, one photo of the always magnificent Kaminariom, the huge paper lantern under the gate leading to Sensoji temple. Enjoy!