Friday, June 15, 2018

Tokyo Asakusa and Sky Tree

Day 2 in Tokyo. We visited Asakusa and Sky Tree. These two places are not far from each other. Asakusa is located at the center of Tokyo, with several train stations around it. From Ikebukuro, we used Metro Marunouchi and Ginza Lines and reached at Asakusa Station in around 45 minutes.

Thunder Gate or Kaminarimon is located around 50 meters from Metro's exit.  It leads to a long-straight shopping street called Nakamise. At the end of the street lays the main gate of Sensoji Temple- Hozomon.

Sensoji Temple (浅草寺, or Asakusa Kannon Temple) - the oldest temple in Tokyo, is the main attraction in Asakusa. It is believed to be built in year 648. Together with Sensoji Temple is a five-tier pagoda, and Asakusa Shrine (built in 1650). 

To be frank, our first impression was, Asakusa temple area was too busy. The hustle of the massive crowd and the noise diluted the historical value of the temple. Well, our expectation of visiting a peaceful temple created a shock for a moment. 

So, instead of Angkor Wat or Guanlin Temple, the temple area is more like Shilin Night Market or Raohe Night Market. According to the history, Asakusa is an entertainment district since long time ago. There are several pedestrian streets webbing around the temple area, make the whole area a huge tourist trap. The entrance to Asakusa temple area is free. We spent around 1 hour and a half roaming around the temple area and the streets nearby.

The signage of Thunder Gate can be seen from the exit of Metro (upper left). Thunder Gate is a huge wooden structure (upper right). The original gate was destroyed long time ago. It was rebuilt in 1960. We need to wait for the right time to take photo with a nicer view of the gate. The gate leads to Nakamise- a street market selling various souvenirs, food, and handicrafts (lower right). The whole place was full of visitors from different countries.

The lantern at the Thunder Gate was donated by Panasonic.

Souvenirs (upper left), Japanese traditional clothes (upper right), masks (lower right), sandals, and many more can be bought around the area. We didn't buy anything there.

Hozomon marks the end of the Nakamise. It is a two-level gate, bigger and taller than the Thunder Gate.

There is a five-level pagoda built on the left side of the Hozomon.

A pair of giant straw sandals (Owaraji in Japanese) are hanged on each sides of Hozomon. The Sandals are around 4 meters long and weight around 500 kg- given as a sign of gratitude. The history of the giant sandals is provided by Japan Times.

The main hall of the temple. This building was bombed to the ground in World War 2. The one that we can see today is a replica.

Asakusa Shrine is relatively quiet and peaceful. It is located at the right of Sensoji Temple.

There is a hand washing basin in front of Asakusa. It is a tradition for Japanese to wash their hand and mouth before proceed into the temple. 

White lanterns with the name of individuals or businesses. This is a way to acknowledge their contributions to the temple.

There are people with traditional Japanese attire walking around the temple area. These clothes can be rented from shops nearby the temple. From the language they used, most of them were not Japanese.

We tried some street food- kibi dango- sweet soft glutenous rice stick (upper left), ice cream (upper right), and ice cream bun (lower right). The pedestrian streets extend far beyond the temple compound. 

Our next stop- Sky Tree. It can be clearly seen from Asakusa. 

Completed in 2011, Tokyo Sky Tree, with a height of 634 meters, is the tallest tower in the world. It is currently the second tallest structure in the world. The tower is located at Sumida, nearby Asakusa. We hooped onto Metro Tobu Sky Tree Line, and traveled from Asakusa to Sky Tree Station. Solamachi Shopping Mall and Sumida Aquarium is located at the foot of the tower. 

The entrance ticket counter of Tokyo Sky Tree is located at 4th floor in Solamachi, with 2060 Yen for one adult to the deck at 350 meters (approximately RM 75). We need to pay another 1030 Yen to access to the deck at 450 meters. For us, 350 meters was high enough to see whole Tokyo, so we didn't proceed higher. We were really lucky that the queuing time at the ticket counter was less than 5 minutes. The high-speed lift traveled 350 meters vertically in around 50 seconds. We took our lunch at Solamachi and spent whole afternoon in Sky Tree and Sumida Aquarium. 

Tokyo Sky Tree is two stations away from Asakusa (Upper left). Tokyo Sky Tree Town is right at the exit of the Metro Station (upper right). From there, we moved upward to Solamachi (lower right). We took our lunch at the food court at 3rd floor, and accessed to the observation deck at 350 meters from 4th floor.

Group photo at 350 meters.

Panorama view to the west.

We can see Asakusa from Sky Tree.

Tokyo Tower can be seen from Sky Tree. Can you identify the tower?

Glass floor at 340 meters.

A view downward.

We went back down to ground around 5 pm. We decided to visit Sumida Aquarium before going back to Ikebukuro. The aquarium operates from 9 am - 9 pm. Entrance fee for adult is 2050 Yen (around RM 75). More information about the aquarium is available at Sumida Aquarium Official Webpage.

Sumida Aquarium is beautiful, clean and organized. However, it is a bit small, and the variety of fish is small. In our opinion, it was not worth the money paid. Aquariums in Malaysia, such as Aquaria KLCC at Kuala Lumpur and Underwater World at Langkawi provides better experience with cheaper price. The aquarium however provided plenty of seats for us to take rest while watching fish swimming around.

Sumida Aquarium can be accessed via roof top passage at 4th floor of Solamachi (upper left). The freshwater aquarium (upper right), seawater aquarium (lower right), seals, and penguins were available.

Creatively designed aquarium with water foliage and fish.

Before we headed back to our homestay, we walked out of Solamachi to take a photo of Tokyo Sky Tree. 

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