A Taste of Old Tokyo
For years, Japan has been a top choice travel destination for travelers visiting Asia. It offers a wonderful mixture of modern, nature and tradition. In 2017, Japan was recorded to be Asia’s fourth most visited country. The country’s capital, Tokyo, is hands-down the most visited and famous city in Japan. Being Japan’s most populated city, Tokyo has indeed been a hub of modernization with busy streets, lots of shopping destinations and pop culture, but there are hidden gems in this bustling city where you can experience Tokyo before all of this, in its original beauty. The areas of old Tokyo are called “Shitamachi” in Japanese. Now, let’s discover the charm of Old Tokyo with these neighborhoods.
Asakusa is regarded as Tokyo’s Shitamachi Center where you can feel the vibe of Old Tokyo. Asakusa is home to many old temples; the most famous one is the Senso-ji Temple (also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple). Completed in the year 645, the Senso-ji Temple is considered to be Tokyo’s oldest temple and was built for the goddess of Kannon. The entrance to the temple is a sight worth seeing in itself, it’s called the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate). The gatehouses this really huge red lantern. It is considered as the symbol of Asakusa.
Take a stroll down Japan’s oldest shopping street: Nakamise Dori. Several centuries’ worth of history is preserved in this street; here travelers can purchase Japanese souvenirs like yukatas, colorful folding fans and fancy chopsticks and travelers can also enjoy various traditional snacks from over 100 shops along the street.
Head over to Yanaka, a charming, quiet district in Tokyo located near Ueno Park, to experience the “Shitamachi atmosphere”. The most visited place in Yanaka is the Yanaka Ginza, a popular shopping street for both locals and travelers alike. With close to 70 small locally owned shops and cafes, it’s definitely a place worth going to where travelers can really feel the lively vibe of local activities.
Upon arrival, travelers will see stairs called the Yuyake Dandan, a well-known spot to see the sunset. Lots of traditional souvenirs can be found in Yanaka Ginza, so be sure to check those out. Explore this street with a hungry appetite for a lot of delicious and affordable local snacks are sold here and the street food is a must try when visiting Yanaka Ginza. Go ahead and try the famous snack called “Cat Tail Cake”, it’s a locally baked donut shaped like a cat’s tail and comes in different flavors. You’ll surely have an amazing time here.
Another breather away from modern Tokyo is the peaceful town of Shibamata. It is a town located on the eastern end of Tokyo. The streets of Shibamata are filled with buildings that embody the architecture style of Old Tokyo offering travelers a wonderful Shitamachi atmosphere. Shibamata is widely known because of the popular movie series “Otoko wa Tsurai yo” (It’s tough being a man). It is the hometown of the movie’s protagonist Tora-san. Right outside the Shibamata Station are two statues of characters from the movie series namely Tora-san and Sakura.
Visit the town’s main shopping street: Taishakuten Sando, a 200-meter road leading to the Shibamata Taishakuten Temple. On this street, travelers can visit lots of local shops, restaurants and food stalls that offer local delicacies. To complete your visit, be sure to try the popular kusa-dango (skewered rice flour balls).
After, take a stroll in the Taishakuten Temple, which is famous for the beautiful woodcarvings on the buildings. These carvings were made between 1922 and 1934. Travelers can also relax in a beautiful Japanese garden inside the complex.
For a day trip destination visit Kawagoe, a city located northwest of Tokyo. This district is rich in history for it has been preserving that Edo Period culture for ages, because of this Kawagoe is now locally known as “Little Edo”.
The most iconic place in Kawagoe is the Kurazukuri Street, where old clay-walled warehouse styled buildings, stores, and merchant homes fill up the street thus giving happy travelers that nostalgia and charming feeling of Old Japan. The buildings are so well preserved that they all are in good condition despite being built between the 1700s and early 1900s. Shop for souvenirs and savor the local snacks this place has to offer. A must try in this street are food and desserts that are made from sweet potato. For a more memorable experience, stroll down this street wearing traditional Japanese attire, it’s like going back in time. One of the best times to visit Kawagoe is in October because during this time the Kawagoe Festival takes places and travelers will be able to witness colorful traditional festival floats.
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