Personally, I can see how the building on the left is a glass of beer…but the one next to it, which is supposed to be a torch, still looks like a golden poop to me.
Not the point.
Jun and I decided to spend a sunny day in Asakusa.
For those of you who do not know about Asakusa, it is the center of Tokyo’s shitamachi, literally “low city”, one of Tokyo’s few districts, which have preserved a certain atmosphere of the old Tokyo.
Asakusa’s main attraction is Sensoji, a very popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century. The temple is approached via the Nakamise, a shopping street that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional, local snacks and tourist souvenirs for centuries. Unfortunately, the temple is currently under construction for some needed renovations, aka earthquake prevention things, but the city has tried to make things a little more pleasant to the eye.
We spent some time walking around Nakamise Shopping Street and had some of the festival food being offered before heading just a few minutes away from Sensoji to a small amusement park called Hanayashiki. Before we actually entered the park, we watched a short ninja show being performed to advertise the park on a small stage outside the park. I am not actually sure what all was going on, but the ninjas were ridiculous.
Once we entered the park, I was kind of impressed by the nostalgic feeling of the park. Hanayashiki is Japan’s oldest theme park, having been open since 1853. It originally opened as a flower garden (in fact that is what the name translates to) and because it has a history going back to Feudal times is close to the hearts of those who visit it. I think it’s also the smallest park I’ve ever been to, easily fitting within a single block. Here is what the official site has to say about the park:
Hanayashiki originally opened as a “flower park” in 1853 – when Perry arrived in Uraga with his black ships! This was at the end of the Edo era.
In addition to the play equipment that was installed in 1872, there were also exotic birds, animals, and western moving pictures that made the facilities popular. Tiger quintuplets, which are rare in the world, were born in 1923! The first lion in Japan was born in 1931.
The mini train, picture-story shows, mini pool, and the oldest attraction in Hanayashiki, “Surprizing House” were opened in 1949!
In summary, this park is old and it kind of shows in the equipment and decorations, but I guess that adds to the charm of the place.
The park is definitely tailored to kids as the seats are very small. When Jun and road on the haunted house ride, we had to squish pretty good to fit the two of us in it. The poor ride clunked along and we were afraid it was going to break mid-ride. The park also has a single coaster that runs the perimeter of the park and has some historical significance. The coaster, cleverly named “Roller Coaster,” has been running since 1953 and is the oldest steel tracked variant in the world. While one may expect the ride to be pretty long considering it goes around the entire park but, alas, the ride lasts no more than a minute. The park also had some things that I called “panda-mobiles” and are pretty much giant stuffed pandas that you can ride around the park instead of walking. They were too slow and ridiculous for us to handle though.
I was convinced that this was an onion that predicted your fortune, but it is actually a tulip bulb that does that. I got “biggest luck” on my first try, but it took Jun several tries to get it. The happy little bulb kept cheering him on to “keep trying” until he got biggest luck too. Annoying little bugger.
After spending a few hours at Hanayashiki, we decided we had enough kiddy rides and walked around Asakusa some more. While we were walking, I happened to see one of my friends who works as a rickshaw driver. Rickshaw are called 人力車 (jinrikisya) which literally translates to “person-powered car.” This friend also appeared on I Survived a Japanese Gameshow because he speaks very good English. For those of you traveling to Japan and are intending to spend some time in Asakusa, if you are going to ride a rickshaw, you should ask for someone named Yoshihito Kurata. He needs more English speakers to practice his English tour guiding skills.
For dinner, Jun and I went to a sushi restaurant recommended by Jun’s family called Maguro Bito まぐろ人 which translates to “Tuna Person.” There is another restaurant by the same place that is a conveyor belt sushi place, but that is not where we went. At this restaurant, there is not enough space for you to sit down, so you are always standing while you eat. Also, you have to say your order to the two sushi chefs who then make the sushi right in front of you. You get to watch the entire process of sushi being made down to the knife work of the chefs. The fish was probably some of the freshest sushi I have had in Japan. I would call this place a little gem in Asakusa and recommend it.
Want to know how fresh the fish was? Check out the video:
Just kidding, this is from a different restaurant and is not mine.
I took a lot of pictures and you can find them all on my Dotphoto page linked on the right hand side.