Trip Report: Japan 2012 – Day 2, Part 2 – Asakusa, Kappabashi

Day 2 of our Japan 2012 trip continued on to Asakusa. It’s an older part of Tokyo and still retains a bit of decade’s past charm. The attraction that everyone comes to see here is Senso-ji Temple, originally built in and the Nakamise shopping street that leads up to it.

When we got there, it was still 7:30am, and most of the merchants were shockingly still closed. They’ll sell you all the trinkets, collectibles and snacks you want when they’re open.

Nakamise Dori (Shopping Street). Image Credit: Ryan.

Walking through the quiet corridor, we made our way to the Kaminarimon, or Thunder Gate. If you look really closely, you can see the two Shinto Gods, Fujin, god of wind, and Raijin, god of thunder. And the giant red lantern, or chochin, which is a symbol of the temple.

Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon). Image Credit: Ryan.

Moving past that you get to an open courtyard and the main buildings of Senso-ji. It’s a pretty big area, but during festivals and holidays, and especially, New Year’s, this place can get packed solid.

Senso-ji Temple. Image Credit: Ryan.

Here, T is demonstrating one of the more unique things at Senso-ji. A large bronze urn containing burning incense that people cover their heads in as an act of purification. To ward off illnesses. To get smarter. Or something.

T Purifying with Smoke, Senso-ji. Image Credit: Ryan.

This is a very big offering box. You can lob your coin from 50 ft and you will likely hit your target.

Offering Box, Senso-Ji. Image Credit: Ryan.

Another interesting feature at the temple is the ceiling art.

Ceiling Art, Senso-ji. Image Credit: Ryan.

T and the Buddha meet.

T and the Buddha Meet. Image Credit: Ryan.

And, now, it’s cherry blossom time. This was the only tree blooming in the whole area at the time (because it was unseasonably cold that year).

Abbreviated Hanami. Image Credit: Ryan.

We moved on to Hanayashiki Amusement Park, which is very near Senso-ji.

Hanayashiki Amusement Park, Asakusa. Image Credit: Ryan.

Hanayashiki does things old school. It’s been in operation since 1853. They probably last updated their rides in 1950. The whole park is like 100 yards square, and they’ve just built rides on top of rides here. The place has a very Castle Park vibe, for those of you in Hawaii old enough to remember Castle Park.

Merry Go Round, Hanayashiki. Image Credit: Ryan.

This coaster ride is so old (circa 1950) that it’s just called Rooraa Koosutaa, or Roller Coaster. It’s like the original one.

Roller Coaster, Hanayashiki. Image Credit: Ryan.

Roller Coaster, going up. Total ride time: maybe 20 seconds.

Roller Coaster Going Up, Hanayashiki. Image Credit: Ryan

An antiquated Japanese arcade. These games were around in 1999 when Ryan was last around.

Ryan in the Arcade, Hanayashiki. Image Credit: T.

Pay 300 yen to catch as many crayfish as you can in 10 minutes with a small fishing pole. Then take one home for an additional 400 yen (in a nice little pet box). Many, many crayfish were lost in service of this game. Let’s remember them now.

Crayfish Game, Hanayashiki

Not a game you’d likely see at E.K. Fernandez. This was actually outside Senso-ji temple. Archery contest!

Archery Game, Asakusa. Image Credit: Ryan.

Then it was time for lunch. It took some time, but we finally found Imahan Bekkan (Tabelog Top 5000), one of the many restaurants in Asakusa that have appropriated the name Imahan, serving sukiyaki and shabu shabu.

Entrance to Imahan Bekkan, Asakusa. Image Credit: Ryan.

This place is legit, if but a little worn. They lead you past this little inner garden as they seat you in your own private tatami room.

Inner Garden, Imahan Bekkan. Image Credit: Ryan.

Our private tatami room, view from the cook top.

Private Room, Imahan Bekkan. Image Credit: Ryan.

Lunch: once cows get past the awkward years of rebellion, this is what they want to be when they grow up: thin, marbled slices of beefy goodness wrapped in deliciousness.

Sukiyaki, Imahan Bekkan. Image Credit: Ryan.

Then dipped in egg yolk. Incidentally, this restaurant is listed as a Top 5000 restaurant on Tabelog. That may not sound like much, but there are almost 475,000 restaurants in Japan, so Top 5000 is fairly impressive.

Sukiyaki, Egg Yolk, Imahan Bekkan. Image Credit: Ryan.

After lunch, a quick jaunt to Kappabashi, or Kitchen Town. Here you can find any kitchen supply you can think of.

Kappabashi, Kitchen Town. Image Credit: Ryan.

Incidentally, this is a kappa. A mythical turtle-like water creature that enjoys luring people to drown and drinking their blood. They often wear plates on their head to protect a soft spot there that holds water. I am not kidding about any of this.

A Kappa. Image Credit: Ryan.

On an entire district devoted to kitchen supplies, stores can get very specific; this one focused on unusual and display coffee pots.

Coffee Pot Shop, Kappabashi. Image Credit: Ryan.

One of the many knife stores on the street. Good to know during the zombie apocalypse.

Knife Shop, Kappabashi. Image Credit: Ryan.

Kappabashi is also known for its several fake plastic display food stores. Unfortunately, we got there late and many of the stores were closed. Still, when you’re in Tokyo, now you know where to get that fake ramen bowl with the chopsticks hanging in the air by suspended noodles.

Okay, so that ends Day 2. We actually went off and had dinner and drinks with friends at Baird Nakameguro Taproom. It was a super fun night, but we were running late, and busy with our peeps, so we just plain forgot to take pictures of the evening. Anyway, the Taproom features Baird Beer, one of the best craft beers in Japan (featured on occasion at Tamura’s or Fujioka’s). Definitely check out Baird and other craft beer makers when you’re in Japan.


Questions, Comments or Criticisms?