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We are spending 3 1/2 weeks in Japan. Though we are excited to explore more of this country, we could have spent the whole time in Tokyo! It’s massive and there’s so much to do and see and eat.
We’ve visited Tokyo once before, 6 1/2 years ago. During that visit, we did and saw a bunch of touristy things, so this time we really wanted to just hang out in the city and get to know the neighborhood we were staying in. Oh yeah, and get over jetlag (which was pretty rough this time!).
We stayed in Asakusa. If you’re going to Tokyo to experience bright lights, lots of people, and crazy nightlife, don’t stay in Asakusa. You’re better off in Shibuya or Shinjuku. But if you want to experience a neighborhood that retains a lot of what you would imagine Japan was like centuries ago, we would highly recommend it.
Asakusa is also is home to the oldest temple in Tokyo: Sensoji. Due to jetlag, we had the pleasure of visiting it early in the morning, before the throngs of other tourists were there. It was so quiet and peaceful.
Another cool place in Asakusa is Kappabashi – or, Kitchen Town. Kappabashi-dori is a big long street of kitchen supplies – the biggest in Japan! It’s a huge tourist draw (and a good place to buy cheap souvenirs) but is also where the restaurant owners in Tokyo go to buy their goods.
Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center
Asakusa has great transportation options. Tokyo is a huge city, but it has an amazingly efficient and widespread public transportation system that has English throughout its stations. And for those of us with mobility issues, there are elevators or escalators at every station (ok, so we can’t be 100% sure about this since we didn’t go to every single station in Tokyo, but we went to a lot and never had to walk up the stairs). It also has a pretty easy-to-use transportation card: PASMO. You can buy one upon arriving at the airport and top it up at any station. It requires a 500 JPY deposit, but you can get that back plus any remaining money on the card when you leave by going to a station office.
Other neighborhoods nearby
Nearby neighborhoods which are worth exploring include Ueno and Ryōgoku. We stayed in Ueno during our last visit to Tokyo and highly recommend the neighborhood as well. It has one of Tokyo’s main transit hubs, Ueno Station, and the amazing Ueno Park, which has a zoo and beautiful temples and is a great place to see the cherry blossoms in the Spring.
There is also a huge sumo hall in Ryōgoku, though unfortunately it’s not sumo season, so we could only admire it from the outside. You can see its top from the Edo-Tokyo Museum viewing area, although we didn’t realize that at the time!