AsakusaAugust 21, 2017
Dust off your dancing shoes, Tokyo: the Asakusa Samba Carnival shimmies into town on 26 August. Considering Brazil is home to the largest Japanese community outside Japan, it’s no wonder Tokyo-ites fall head over tootsies for samba and this annual festival has been celebrating the dance tradition since 1981. Join over half a million residents to watch 20 teams of sizzling, sequin-spangled dancers and musicians shake their tail feathers in a vibrant procession, past the Kaminarimon and on towards Tawaramachi.
In celebration of Asakusa, we’ve rounded up our favourite places to eat, drink and play while visiting this traditional northeastern hood: quaint confectioner Ameshin, 200-year-old restaurant Komagata Dozeu, homegrown buckwheat-noodle joint Edo Soba Hosokawa, kitchenware street Kappabashi and the Sensō-ji temple. Sashay this way...
At Ameshin, nimble-fingered amezaiku (confectionary sculptor) Shinri Tezuka uses his magic hands to shape and scissor molten sugar into delicate and remarkably realistic goldfish, frogs, cats and candy cranes. Visit his itty-bitty Asakusa workshop to see him at work, but note that the nearby Solamachi Store at Tokyo Skytree Town is the only place where you can buy his sweet treats.
Komagata Dozeu is a 200-year-old Akasaka time warp with tatami floor seats, low tables and a menu dedicated to an enticing eel-like fish. It may not be a high-falutin’ institution, but it's certainly a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. Give the sweet and salty namazu hotpot a shot.
Over at Edo Soba Hosokawa, springy strings of wholesome soba are made daily from the chef’s homegrown buckwheat and served in a sweet, communal diner. Soba with conger eel tempura is the house specialty, but do take a noodle at the seasonal dishes, and book the semi-private room for more intimate dining.
If you like the sound of browsing more kitchenwares and cooking curios than you could poke a customised chopstick at, beeline for Kappabashi street, home to 150+ shops, plus a fair bit of tat. Avoid the latter by heading to Dengama for artisanal tableware, Tanaka for lacquerware and Kamata Knife Shop for beautiful blades and English service. Need a retail breather? Pop into Sake Sanwa for a tipple at the stand-up tasting bar.
Sensō-ji, Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple, is dedicated to the mistress of mercy, Kannon. You’ll have to fight through the selfie-stick wielders to snap a pic by the famous red lantern and pretty pagoda, bow to the lady herself in the main hall, then exit left and have a gander around the far more peaceful koi pond and smaller shrines. Avoid the tourist merchandise and heaving hordes of the main approach by taking the parallel streets to the left or right. You'll be rewarded with small, traditional vendors such as washi-paper seller Kurodaya and tenugui towel shop Kururi.
Asakusa Samba Carnival / from 1.30pm Sat 26 Aug / asakusa-samba.org
Komagata Dozeu / 1-7-12 Komagata / +81 3 3842 4001 / 11am-9pm daily / dozeu.com
Edo Soba Hosokawa / 1-6-5 Kamezawa / +81 3 3626 1125 / lunch & dinner Tue-Sun, no res on Saturdays or public holidays / edosoba-hosokawa.jp
Kappabashi / 3-18-2 Matsugaya / 9am-5pm Mon-Sat / kappabashi.or.jp
Dengama / 1-4-3 Nishi-asakusa / +81 3 5828 9355 / 10am-7pm daily / dengama.jp
Sake Sanwa / 3-17-11 Matsugaya / +81 3 5830 3521 / 12pm-6pm Thu-Tue
Sensō-ji / 2-3-1 Asakusa / +81 3 3842 0181 / 6.30am-5pm daily / senso-ji.jp