Asakusa. Did you know...

Sun Star Bacolod - - ‘yuhom! - TEXT AND PHO­TOS BY JING­GOY I. SAL­VADOR

IENTERED this dis­trict in mod­ern Tokyo not re­ally know­ing any­thing about the place ex­cept for the large red lantern at the gate of a 7th-cen­tury Bud­dhist tem­ple. It’s called the Senso-ji, Tokyo’s old­est tem­ple and the iconic fig­ure of Asakusa.

But Asakusa is much more than the Senso-ji and its lanterns, the cen­turies-old tra­di­tion of re­tail on the shop­ping street, “se­cret gar­den” where only the shoguns and no­bles were al­lowed en­try, and the five-story pagoda. Like pre­fer, I went on an ex­plo­ration on foot like out­side the tem­ple walls. It’s in the “get­ting lost” in an un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory that I find ex­cit­ing. How­ever, there is al­ways the op­tion of tak­ing a guided tour on a rick­shaw (aka jin­rik­isha or “man-pow­ered ve­hi­cle”)

What did I find out along the way? Here they are. Did you know that Asakusa is col­lo­qui­ally known as Shi­ta­machi? It lit­er­ally trans­lates to “low city,” re­fer­ring to the dis­trict’s low el­e­va­tion in the part of the city along the Shu­mida River banks. It’s also said that Asakusa re­tains the aura of old Ja­pan than the other dis­tricts.

Aside from the sub­way and train, you can use reach Asakusa af­ter a guided cruise along the river. It makes for an in­ter­est­ing take of the place from an­other an­gle. Which leads to the next en­try.

Did you know that the other much-talked about gi­ant “golden poo” is a pop­u­lar land­mark? You can’t miss it while cruis­ing the Shu­mida River. It sits on one of the Asahi Beer head­quar­ters. Some see it as a golden cloud but the sculp­ture is ac­tu­ally a golden flame cre­ated by French artist Philippe Starck, and rep­re­sents pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion Asahi has for brew­ing. It was in­stalled in 1989 for the com­pany’s 100th an­niver­sary. Like the Tokyo Skytree, the Asahi head­quar­ters is in Su­mida-ku, but these can be viewed from the river­side park in Asakusa.

Did you know that Asakusa was the ad­dress of the big­gest the­ater dis­trict in Edo (Old Tokyo), and the lead­ing en­ter­tain­ment dis­trict for that mat­ter? For the Kabuki theaters and the red light dis­trict, lo­cals head out to this spot out­side the city limits. As years passed, mod­ern types of en­ter­tain­ment emerged.

The en­ter­tain­ment spot didn’t re­gain its pop­u­lar­ity af­ter WWII, when large parts of the area were rav­aged.

I chanced upon a Rakugo the­ater. I caught a cou­ple of shows on tour but that was in English. As much as I would like to catch a show in a lo­cal set­ting, I can’t un­der­stand Ja­panese.

Did you know that there are lots of very in­ter­est­ing hole in the wall bars and restau­rants hid­den in the al­leys of the dis­trict? There are mod­ern ones in the newer build­ings and malls, but the ones along the off the beaten track seem to be more al­lur­ing. Per­haps you need to speak the lan­guage well to en­joy it. But that won’t be a prob­lem. Join a bar hop­ping tour and see what the nightlife is like in this part of town.

Shop­ping? Did you know Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s best ar­eas to go shop­ping for sou­venirs and more? Any­thing that will re­mind you of Ja­pan, you’ll find here. A sa­mu­rai sword? Why not? There are hun­dreds of shops sell­ing just about any­thing – post­cards, a va­ri­ety of snacks and bev­er­age made of green tea, an­tique ki­mono, hand­i­crafts, there’s even an un­der­ground shop­ping cen­ter, and a Don Quixote in the area.*

JA­PAN. Asakusa is where you can score great finds, like an an­tique sa­mu­rai sword.

JA­PAN. Rakugo the­ater in the Rekkin En­ter­tain­ment Dis­trict.

JA­PAN. You can walk or take a guided tour on a rick­shaw.

JA­PAN. Shin-nakamise is a pop­u­lar cov­ered shop­ping street.

JA­PAN. The al­leys re­veal in­ter­est­ing bars and food stops.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.