You know how to make me a huge fan of a place…put a monkey there.
I’ve seen a lot of temples in Japan, but Senso-ji in Asakusa quickly shot to the top of my list of favorites because when I visited for the first time, I stumbled across a performing monkey. He was walking on stilts, jumping over hurdles, and other ‘monkey-ish’ things—all while wearing a little Hawaiian shirt! <3
I’ve been back to Asakusa several times after that and much to my disappointment, there hasn’t been a monkey since. Nonetheless, there is always something new that I see or experience so I keep going back. The temple area is always impressive. The massive gate called the ‘thunder gate’ or Kaminarimon is located at the entrance and is home to one of the famous, giant black and red paper lanterns. (The colors are supposed to symbolize thunderclouds and lightening.) There is a second giant lantern above the steps to the actual Senso Temple.
This whole area is a hot spot for tourists. It’s a photo bomber’s dream with hundred of people around you all taking selfies at the same time, you’re bound to end up in some strangers’ pictures! Plus you have to watch out for the selfie sticks—they’re everywhere and being wielded around searching for the perfect angle. The main road leading to the temple is called the Nakamise-dori. It is filled with little shops selling typical souvenirs, omiyage, delicious street foods, and is always packed with people.
When you feel like taking a break from the crowds, I recommend walking across the Sumida River to visit the Asahi building. It is the strange looking building in one of the pictures below. It is meant to look like a beer, with a bubbly layer of foam on top! Next to the “beer” building is the Asahi Beer Hall. This modern building was designed by the famous designer Philippe Starck, atop of the structure is the “Asahi flame” or what is sometimes referred to as the ‘Golden turd’.
So I suggest going get a closer look at the ‘golden turd’ while on the way to the 22nd floor of the Asahi building—that is where there is a little tasting room. Here, away from all the people, you can taste a variety of Asahi beers. At the same time, you get a breathtaking view of the river and all of Asakusa. You can see the Senso-ji, Nakamise-dori, and if the weather is clear, Mt. Fuji off in the distance. The beer was only 500 yen a glass, so not a terrible price, and the amazing view made it worth the short walk across the river. My friends and I were the only ones there as well so it was quite refreshing after battling the crowds close to the temple. I think the only thing that could have made the tasting room better….would have been a monkey pouring my beer!