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

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

By Time Out Tokyo Editors

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

2. Take a ramen history class...

Restaurants Ramen Asakusa

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


3. Grab a ritzy rice ball...

Restaurants Asakusa

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

4. Acquire a beer belly...

Bars and pubs Pubs Oshiage

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


5. Go crazy for sushi...

Restaurants Sushi Oshiage

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

6. Receive bovine blessings...

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Mukojima

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


7. Compare the baumkuchen...

Shopping Mukojima

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

8. Ride a vintage roller coaster...

Attractions Theme parks Asakusa

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


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

Shopping Gifts and souvenirs Asakusa

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

10. Wrap your chops around a giant bun...

Restaurants Cafés Asakusa

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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23. Wrap up your day with steak...

Restaurants Steakhouse Mukojima

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

24. Drive into the river...

Things to do Oshiage

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


25. Hit a home run...

Sport and fitness Baseball Asakusa

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

26. Throw an Edo-style barbecue party...

Restaurants Japanese Asakusa

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


27. Guess what's for lunch...

Restaurants Cafés Sumida

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

28. Channel your inner Hokusai...

Things to do Classes and workshops Asakusa

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


29. Visit an old-school sento...

Health and beauty Saunas and baths Mukojima

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


30. Learn more about smokes and sodium...

Museums Oshiage

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


31. Marvel at pretty partitions...

Things to do Classes and workshops Mukojima

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

32. Queue up for a gooey buffet...

Restaurants Japanese Asakusa

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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45. Wander around every chef's dream district...

Shopping Asakusa

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


46. Upgrade your kitchen knife...

Shopping Asakusa

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

47. Nod for gyoza...

Restaurants Gyoza Kameido

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


48. Fry some soul food...

Restaurants Okonomiyaki Asakusa

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

49. Be an artist's model...

Things to do Asakusa

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


50. Fall for fake food...

Shopping Asakusa

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

51. Update your luck...

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Kameido

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


52. Glimpse the next art trend...

Art Ryogoku

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

53. Create your own unique souvenirs...

Things to do Classes and workshops Asakusa

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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