Sensoji Temple and the Asakusa Nakamise Shopping Street by Night

Why visit Sensoji and its shopping street at night? It may seem counterintuitive but you’ll be surprised how different the area looks once darkness falls, the shops close and the crowds of tourists vanish.


Asakusa Nakamise (浅草仲見世) is a shopping street that leads from the Kaminarimon Gate (雷門 meaning thunder gate) all the way to Sensoji temple (浅草寺), which was established in the seventh century and is the oldest temple in Tokyo. The street has dozens of small shops that sell all kinds of Japanese souvenirs and food. It is arguably one of the most popular tourists spots in the capital. The sheer number of people, which gives this street its lively atmosphere, also makes moving around in a group and taking photos quite challenging.

Asakusa Nakamise can get very crowded in the daytime

For that reason, I would recommend planning a visit at night when all the shops are closed (after 8pm) and the streets are mostly empty of sightseers. I stumbled upon the nighttime charm of the area when a friend of mine, who is a regular visitor to Japan, happened to be staying in a hotel in Asakusa in order to see the Sanja Matsuri festival. We met up one evening in front of the huge Kaminarimon gate, the usual starting point for a visit to Nakamise, planning to head directly to an izakaya for some food and a few beers.

Asakusa Nakamise at night

However, upon seeing that the gate and other main buildings were lit up at night we decided to wander towards the Sensoji temple. Having walked this street countless times before during the day, it was quite a revelation. Without the daytime throngs of people we could stroll without having to elbow our way through or worry losing one another. Thanks to the nighttime illumination we could still take amazing photos – recently renovated Senso-ji temple and the nearby five-storied pagoda both looked stunning when lit up at night.

Sensoji temple at night

At one point we came upon a procession of people chanting energetically while carrying a mikoshi or portable shrine on their shoulders. We were able to get some good close-up photos before they disappeared down the intersecting shopping arcade. No doubt a warm-up for the Sanja festival, a huge 3-day festival held every may, starting the following day.

The shutters are lit up so it’s possible to get good photos

Since most stores were closed, their shutters were down, revealing beautifully painted scenes of everyday life in Asakusa during the Edo era (1603-1868), something hidden from sight during regular business hours. Officially, these shutters are called the “Asakusa picture scroll” and they were painted in 1992, under the guidance of a professor from the Tokyo Art University.

Despite depicting past scenes, the shutters are a modern creation

After walking right up to the temple and taking in the sacred feel of the place, I would recommend retracing your steps till the point where shops line both sides of the street again. Here look left down the intersecting street and check out the Tokyo Sky Tree in the background, also illuminated at night. However it’s preferable to walk this street called Denpoin dori (伝法院通り) in the opposite direction.

Denpoin street at night

The left side of the street is also lined with stores closed for the night showcasing beautifully painted shutter storefronts. Originally, the all the streets in the area had unsightly electrical poles and cables like other parts of the city, but they were buried underground in 1994. It reminded me of the kind of street you find in small onsen towns tucked away in the sides of Japanese mountains.

Despite its traditional look, there were electrical poles lining the streets up until 25 years ago

Upon reaching the next intersection, turning left will take you back to the main road that passes in front of Kaminarimon gate. Continuing past the gate and onto the bridge over the Sumida river, you’ll get to see the famous “Asahi Flame” that tops the Asahi Beer Tower, also lit up at night, which represents the frothy foam of a glass of beer. Reminding you that it’s finally time to get that overdue beer!

Although Monjayaki is originally an Asakusa dish, it was created during WW2 so this scene is fictional

Read more about things to do in Asakusa on the Tadaima Japan website:

【INTERVIEW】The job of Rickshaw Driver: from Guiding People to Changing People’s Lives

For smartphone users, please click the link below to go to the Tadaima Japan website which includes additional location details:

Sensoji Temple and the Asakusa Nakamise Shopping Street by Night

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AUTHOR

David

David

Writer / Translator

I’ve been in Japan for over 10 years although it feels shorter because I am constantly discovering new things and new places. Sometimes it can be hard to get the full Japanese experience because of cultural differences and linguistic barriers. For that reason, I want to share what I have learned in order to enhance your experience in Japan. Having said that, figuring out stuff on your own can also be fun. In any case, I hope you can find here whatever you need in order to make your stay a success.

Information

Address 1 Chome-20 Asakusa,
Taito City,
Tokyo,
111-0032
Hours 8:00-19:00
Price Free
Close None
Access One-minute walk from
Asakusa Station
(Asakusa and Ginza lines)
Phone None
Website http://www.asakusa-nakamise.jp/e-index.html