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65 things to do in Asakusa

There's more to Asakusa than Sensoji and the Skytree – find the best things to do with our complete guide to the area

Things to do in Asakusa #56: Explore the world of beer-like beverages

Home to Sensoji, metropolitan Tokyo’s oldest and buzziest temple, Asakusa is one of the most tourist-infested parts of old Tokyo. Its appeal was further boosted by the 2012 opening of nearby Tokyo Skytree, which stands on the opposite side of the Sumida River, and has become an essential stop on every city newcomer's itinerary.

If you're looking to dodge the hordes and discover another side of Asakusa, read on: our guide to the best things to do in the area features not only Asakusa but also the less thoroughly explored streets on the east side of the Sumida River, from Mukojima and the Skytree all the way down to Kameido and Ryogoku. It invites you to discover the shitamachi's culture of craftsmanship, its newly trendy cafés, tasty eateries and bars, plus a few hidden gems known only to locals.

1

Stare up at a terrific tower...

Gaze out over the vastness of Tokyo from the 634m Tokyo Skytree's twin observatories (350m and 450m) – the upper observatory offers grand views of the whole Kanto plain – and check out the tower's evening light-ups, which illuminate the entire structure and sees twin colour patterns alternate daily. Tokyo Skytree

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2

Take a ramen history class...

They say shoyu ramen originated in Asakusa. Overlooked by most tourists, Yoroiya recently remodelled its interior, but the simple, aromatic 'double' (seafood- and meat-based) soup is still traditional through and through. Yoroiya

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Asakusa
3

Grab a ritzy rice ball...

Tokyo's oldest onigiri specialist is probably the most stylish of its kind, too: the impeccably formed rice balls are served from behind a hardwood counter resembling that of a fancy sushi joint. The lunch sets are particularly good value. Yadoroku

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Asakusa
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4

Acquire a beer belly...

Not a museum at all, this huge beer hall has room for more than 300 imbibers but still gets packed almost every day. Choose from over 150 varieties of bottles from all over the world, including Belgian, German and Czech brands. On sunny days, check out the terrace and its Skytree views. World Beer Museum

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Oshiage
5

Go crazy for sushi...

The concepts 'high quality' and 'conveyor-belt sushi' usually don't go together, but this Hokkaido-born eatery bucks the trend with superbly fresh, spectacular-looking seafood, served up by an always cheerful bunch of chefs. Toriton

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Oshiage
6

Receive bovine blessings...

This shrine near the Skytree is a great sakura-viewing spot, but its top attraction is the 'nade-ushi', a cow statue said to have healing properties. Got an ache? Rub the corresponding body part on the cow, and its power will help you get back into shape. Ushijima Shrine

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Mukojima
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7

Compare the baumkuchen...

It's difficult to find baumkuchen made with Jersey milk at such a reasonable price. They offer various flavours like mango, caramel and matcha, so take home a few and find your favourite. Tokyo Baumkuchen

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Mukojima
8

Ride a vintage roller coaster...

Asakusa's very own amusement park has been in business since 1883, and it shows: most rides are more nostalgic and cute than thrilling. Still, Japan's oldest steel-track roller coaster offers a fun alternative to the area's otherwise austere attractions. Hanayashiki

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Asakusa
9

Surprise the young 'uns with a vintage doll...

Looking for a kid-friendly souvenir? Officially a Japanese kite specialist, this charmingly dishevelled shop right by Kuramae Station also stocks traditional fans, kokeshi dolls, old-school toys, streamers, quirky masks and the like. Tako Kimura Shoten

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Asakusa
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10

Wrap your chops around a giant bun...

A traditional sweets shop by trade, this local old-timer does most of its business selling jumbo varieties of melon pan, a melon-shaped (but not flavoured) sweet bun sold warm straight from the oven at the storefront. Go for the tea set if you're sitting down. Kagetsudo

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Asakusa
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23

Wrap up your day with steak...

The chunky steak here is cooked to perfection and is very reasonably priced. Go for Japanese wagyu for the ultimate beefy flavour or try the omurice and fried prawns for lighter meals. Restaurant Katayama

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Mukojima
24

Drive into the river...

When a conventional tour just won’t do, hop aboard this amphibious bus, which plies the streets around the Skytree before going for a swim in the nearby river. The Sky Duck departs three times a day (four during summer) from a stop close to Tokyo Skytree Station. Sky Duck

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Oshiage
25

Hit a home run...

Blow off some steam after work by swinging at mechanical pitches or perfect your fastball in the bullpen – this batting centre is instantly recognisable by the giant glove above the entrance and stays open until 1am every day. Asakusa Batting Stadium

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Asakusa
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26

Throw an Edo-style barbecue party...

The 'Edo-style cuisine' on offer here may be heavily adapted to contemporary tastes, but grilling your own grub over a charcoal hearth is always fun and makes for a great icebreaker. For the full experience, consider investing in the wild game course. Sakurada

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Asakusa
27

Guess what's for lunch...

This café sits inside a 90-year-old house and switches up the chefs each day so that the menu changes often – one day you might order an organic lunch, the next you might tuck into a Hawaiian dish. At night, it turns into a bar, hosting various gigs and other events. Reptile Branch

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Sumida
28

Channel your inner Hokusai...

Canada-born printmaker David Bull runs Mokuhankan, a wonderful little shop specialising in traditional woodblock prints. Join one of the in-store 'print parties' and create your very own piece to take home – it's a lot easier than it sounds. Mokuhankan

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Asakusa
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29

Visit an old-school sento...

Though the sento industry is apparently on a decline, Okame-yu has been preserving its traditional ambience since 1951. They even still heat up their water over fire! Okame-yu

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Mukojima
30

Learn more about smokes and sodium...

The tenuous rationale for this unique museum's pairing of themes is that both were once government monopoly commodities. Tobacco gets the most exposure, with much of the space devoted to the history, manufacture and culture of the killer leaf. Look out for the rotating special exhibitions, too – these can be real pieces of work. Tobacco & Salt Museum

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Oshiage
31

Marvel at pretty partitions...

The only shop in Tokyo specialising in traditional folding screens, Kataoka houses a showroom and holds classes on the structure and production of these practical pieces of art. Bookings are required for both the showroom and workshops. Kataoka Byobuten

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Mukojima
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32

Queue up for a gooey buffet...

Mugitoro's ¥1,000 all-you-can-eat lunch is popular both among locals and domestic tourists of the older generation – the barley rice and super-sticky grated yam it's served with make for a super-healthy and filling meal. Mugitoro

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Asakusa
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44

Complete your souvenir hunt...

Besides selling locally made goods, this store features an ukiyo-e gallery and exhibits Edo Kiriko, traditional glass art that makes for a beautiful gift. Kameido Umeyashiki

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Kameido
45

Wander around every chef's dream district...

Recommended

Looking to set up a restaurant? You'll find everything you need in the neighbourhood also known as 'Kitchen Town' – from pots, dishes and knives to colourful storefront lanterns, noren curtains and the unmissable plastic food samples. Kappabashi

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Asakusa
46

Upgrade your kitchen knife...

They say using a proper chef's knife will revolutionise your cooking experience, and after trying out some of the blades on offer at this venerable specialist dealer, we're inclined to agree. The multilingual staff help you pick out the perfect one. Kama Asa

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Asakusa
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47

Nod for gyoza...

You need only give a simple nod and your waitron will appear with another gyoza plate. Each portion is only ¥250 and comes with five of these crispy dumplings – perfect for an easy appetiser or, if you order a few, a full meal. Kameido Gyoza

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Kameido
48

Fry some soul food...

Comfort food in a funky wooden shack, within easy walking distance of the tourist sights. This spot can get incredibly sweaty in summer, but when you’re sitting round the okonomiyaki pan, the intimate atmosphere is wonderfully authentic. Sometaro

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Asakusa
49

Be an artist's model...

The cheery artists here can recreate your mug in around ten minutes. Choose from monochrome and colour versions first, then just sit back, relax and let the magic happen. They have another branch at the Tokyo Solamachi complex, too. Caricature Japan Asakusa Shop

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Asakusa
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50

Fall for fake food...

You've seen them displayed in glass cases outside restaurants: Japan's plastic food samples are quickly becoming hot property among tourists on the hunt for memorable souvenirs. Get your fake food keyrings and magnets here. Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya

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Asakusa
51

Update your luck...

Dedicated to the 'god of learning', Sugawara no Michizane, this shrine is popular amongst students. Every January, you can trade in your wooden bullfinch (a 'lucky bird') for a new one, to 'update' your luck. Kameido Tenjin Shrine

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Kameido
52

Glimpse the next art trend...

Focusing on unique young artists, this gallery introduces a wide range of art in all genres, Many upcoming artists and curators seek to exhibit here, so you might be setting eyes on the next big trend. Gallery MoMo Ryogoku

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Ryogoku
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53

Create your own unique souvenirs...

Feeling creative? Step into this small neighbourhood workshop and try your hand at designing traditional Japanese glass beads. These tonbodama are infinitely customisable, and you can choose your favourite style from a wide range of options. Reservations required. Asakusa Tonbodama Kobo

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Asakusa
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101 things to do in Ginza

Tokyo’s centre of luxury can be a little intimidating – not so with our behind-the-scenes guide to Ginza’s symbols and secrets

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By: Time Out Tokyo Editors

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