The area around Asakusa, north-west Tokyo, has lots of things to entertain the kids. We decided on this area to explore today as it was a glorious blue sky day and our first stop was going to be the world’s tallest freestanding, broadcasting tower – the Tokyo Sky Tree. This obviously required good conditions to appreciate the view.
We decided to walk from Asakusa station to the tower instead of taking the dedicated line one stop. Although the walk was longer than we anticipated, it meant we stumbled upon two cherry blossom trees in full bloom close to the base of the tower. These were magnificent to photograph with a blue sky background and quite a few Japanese had the same idea. We have since discovered that when there is a Ume tree in full bloom, there is also a bloom of Japanese surrounding it.
Built only in 2012, the tower stands at 634 metres tall. We ventured to the first observation deck at 350 metres and the view was spectacular. There is another observation deck at 450 metres but there is really no point in spending the money to go higher. In a rare display of corporate magnanimity, the lower (and cheaper) viewing floor gives you access to an incredible 360 degree view, restaurants, shops and even a glass floor. There’s really no need to pay the extra 1000 yen each to go higher.
From the Sky Tree you could make out Fuji (albeit hazily) in the west as well as watching Tokyo sprawl out in every direction beneath you.
John especially liked looking through the glass floor to the trains far, far below. The Japanese thought him crawling around on the panels, pointing and shouting “train, train” to be so cute, he was quite the star of their photos.
Our next stop was the new tourist information centre in Asakusa as it had a roof deck for viewing the nearby Senjo-ji Temple and Asakusa area. Thomas thought the view of the Asahi beer headquarters, affectionately known as ‘The Golden Poo’, was particularly amusing.
On our way out we were interviewed by Japanese TV about monetary cultural differences between our two countries. The boys were cranky and hungry so perhaps it would be interesting to see whether they use the footage to show cultural differences in the behaviour of children instead.
After lunch, we headed to the Taito-ku drum museum. You were able to play about 70% of the drums on display which was loads of fun except when certain two year olds who don’t understand the labelling, have tantrums about the ones they can’t touch. Still, amongst other things, we all got to play steel drums, wind up wind machines, and bash the life out of really big drums – respectfully of course.
Next we moved into the kitchenware district Kappabashidori (we visit all the best places right?), where everything imaginable relating to cooking and the food service industry was on sale. We were looking for the sub-district where they sold all the plastic food replicas found out the front of every restaurant in Japan. We didn’t find the area itself but found one shop and Thomas was consistently surprised by how real everything appeared.
Our last stop on our busy itinerary was the famous Senjo-ji Buddhist temple, the oldest temple in the city. It was heaving in the late afternoon but worth braving the crowd as the boys got to experience some religious ceremony. Kimono clad ladies toddled demurely up the long shop lined path to the temple proper while hundreds of other Japanese pulled their fortune sticks from tombola type boxes. We watched people bathing themselves in incense smoke to ward off evil spirits. Thomas was fascinated by the giant lantern and angry looking gods at the Kaminarimon or ‘Thunder Gate’ as well as people tossing money into the large offering “wishing wells” (as he called them).
It was a busy day with a lot of walking – over 5kms in total but we didn’t hear a complaint from the boys (unless hungry or denied the use of an antique Indonesian drum), with Thomas walking the whole distance himself. We were very proud that they could rise to the challenge.