I watched from the comfort of Hotel Okura’s breakfast nook as a transparent umbrella whipped off a salaryman’s hand on his way to work outside the streets of Tokyo. The rain had worsened on our third and last day in Japan. It wasn’t a good way to start the morning at all.
My original plan was to check the nearby Imperial Palace by foot. I’d like to savor Tokyo on my own slow terms. I wanted to see its side streets, its small stores and its ordinary life unfold by walking through its thoroughfares. But it looks like I’d have to come up with a quick plan B.
Then I remembered Asakusa. On our first day in Japan, we passed by a town with small Japanese shops lining its roads. I also recalled a giant torii gate as we hailed a cab en route to meet Sakura Jaya’s geishas over dinner. I loved the feel of the area, like old-school Japan intertwined with its modern counterparts. I thought that it might not be a bad idea to go back there to see more.
Wasting no time, I quickly changed camera. With the onslaught of rain, I felt it would be better if I simply bring one small camera with me. I ditched the weather-sealed Sony A77 and holstered my NEX-5n along with an ultra wide angle lens, it’s not rainproof but it’s tiny and it is wide. I like wide shots.
Taking the Tokyo Subway, I eventually reached Asakusa and promptly forgot where the specific area was. My GPS wasn’t working so I tried to ask for directions with some locals. Through hand signals and some walking through the rain, I finally managed to locate it.
The Kaminari Gate doesn’t look as impressive in daylight as it was a few nights ago, but the stores past it were! I’m an ordinary guy and I enjoy buying souvenirs and what-nots to bring back home like the next tourist. I like ref magnets, I like key chains and I’m not ashamed to say so; to heck with them so-called travelers.
Nakamise Street is an omiyage (souvenir) heaven! They’ve got everything here from real and fake Katana swords, wood block prints, Japanese robot toys, Doraemon, Astroboys, bags, shirts, kimonos and yes, beautifully made key chains and ref magnets by the heaps. It was so tempting to bring home a sword if not for the ¥36,000.00 price tag. Expensive stuff and I’m not even sure if it’s allowed in the airport.
Beside souvenirs, there were also a lot of Japanese foodstuffs being sold in the area. Sushis, candies, rice cakes, kibi-balls manjus, chocolates and other curious things I’m not familiar with. These are the processed ones already packed in cans and plastics, but a fresher alternative can also be brought from the other stores.
Vendors constantly calling out to passing tourists for a taste of their local goodies seemed the norm here. Again, I’m not really sure what they’re selling but unfortunately I really have no time (nor the spare cash) to have a taste.
So I made do with the next best thing, take photographs. It’s quick and it’s free to boot! I like how everyone seemed game to have their pictures taken. I encountered not one rude vendor here, everyone’s just so friendly and polite. I love the people of Japan!
There were also a lot of unique and very Japanese things being sold in the area; wooden toys especially. Although most of these come in premium prices, you can be assured that they’re authentically local. I closed my eyes, took out my wallet and bought a few to bring home.
The Nakamise Shopping Street has been around since the early 18th century when locals surrounding the nearby temple set up shops for people en route to the shrine. It stretches for around a quarter of a kilometer from the Kaminari Gate. There are three lanes and each one’s literally packed with shops, the area has a total of almost a hundred stores. And the alleys, even if it was raining, were also jammed with tourists and shoppers.
As I neared the last shop on the center lane, I noticed a tall and graceful pagoda from one of the toy stores I was busy rummaging in. I remembered one of my companions telling me there was a huge temple near the shops but I totally forgot about it; I didn’t even know it was located here.
After carefully wrapping my precious purchases; I opened my umbrella, set myself to get soaked in the rain again and started towards the massive Sensoji Temple.
Nakamise Shopping Street
Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
Contact Number: 03-3842-0181
Open Hours: Open Everyday
GPS Coordinates: 35.711143,139.796369
View Location on Google Maps: Click Here