Our first night in Asakusa was pretty disheartening. Filled with the pains of leaving ‘our home’ and then wandering around for hours lost in the rain looking for our place of stay – it’s safe to say Asakusa wasn’t winning us over much. Thoughts that tended to fill our minds consisted of “This is shit”, “It’s raining”, “I wanna go back to Osaka” and “This is it?!”. But our first day in Asakusa was a turn around a corner for us all. The sky was clear, it was a damn nice day and the niceness of the locals shone through every person we came across. Asakusa is a pretty old town. Much like the kind of place where you might want to retire to, or a place you’d like to vacate to when you’re in your 60′s. Lots of convenience stores, cheap 99 yen stores, markets, Onsen’s, cheap restaurants, temples and no chronic hustle and bustle.
It’s easy to see the attraction to Asakusa when you truly open your eyes and look beneath the lack of neon signs, girls in knee high socks, arcades and electronics stores. There’s something really nice and warm about Asakusa that feels inviting, non-threatening and homely. The only problem with Asakusa, is that at times it can feel so warm and sedate that you tend to get complacent and forget you’re on a holiday, and that you’re in Tokyo at all!
Asakusa was or home for the week, so it was vital there were some good places to eat. Fortunately Asakusa has some great restaurants. The one thing often gets side lined and forgotten about in favour of all that high-tech Tokyo stuff is the food, and Asakusa has some real good food. On one of Asakusa’s main high streets (for the life of me I cannot remember the name of it) was a curry joint that my friends and I ate in DAILY. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to snap a picture of the place or catch a moment with the the cool staff (who were friendly and quirky) or even remember the name of the place. But their curries are the absolute shit! Then you have Mister donut - our daily ritual breakfast spot: where they serve magic tea that needs no stirring when you add milk and pineapple juice that tastes so fresh that I believe Mihoko-chan actually teleported to Paraguay to get some pineapples and made the shit herself! The staff soon grew accustomed to our pointing, constant spouting of “Arigato gozaimsu” (the only Japanese phrase we could say properly), holding up of fingers to how many donuts we wanted, and our big appetites – that it got to the point where they’d smile and giggle every time they saw any of us, and would even ask how we were. That was until they realized our Japanese was limited, and what little we knew was so butchered and terrible that they were in no rush to hear it again.
I didn’t give Asakusa a fair shot initially, but I soon grew to love the place. It has many little quirks and nuances that I’ve still yet to discover. Asakusa is the kind of place that you have to dedicate time to. Turn over every stone. Wander down every alley. As the cool stuff is often tucked away out of view.
On my next visit to Japan, I’ll be sure to give Asakusa more of a going over. It served as little more than our place of sleep and hub to all the more lively towns, wards and precincts – which is rather unfair given how nice and rich a place Asakusa actually was.
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