Why is Asakusa the prime tourism hub of Tokyo Japan?
Real Estate Development Lessons in Travels
Asakusa is too touristy, most travel vlogs would say. It’s meant to discourage one to venture into the place so one can avoid the crowds and the over-priced food and souvenirs. I ventured towards it, anyway, curious why it became a tourist hub.
For one who does feasibility studies for hotels, resorts and commercial projects for a living, travels, while intended for leisure and relaxation, still provide opportunities for further learning.
In this video, I chose 3 buildings or spots around where we stayed, which could explain why Asakusa has attracted the tourists. Join me as I walk around, marvel, and try to sketch literally and figuratively the sights that make Real Estate Asakusa a prime tourist-draw.
The Sensoji Temple
It is the oldest temple in Tokyo– first built in 545 AD. Though repaired and rebuilt several times through its history, it has kept its original design. When it was destroyed in World War II, its rebuilding signified Japan’s revival.
Sensoji is a shrine to the spirit of traditional Japan, as much as it is to the buddhist goddess, bodhisattva Kannon. About 30 million tourists visits Asakusa yearly. Majority of these are not the religious but foreigners interested in old japan and its time-honored traditions, beliefs, customs, art, cuisine, fashion and architecture. Jinrikishas or man-powered rickshaws, carrying Kimono-clad tourists are a common sight.
The immediate vicinity is replete with pre-war and even older houses, shops, and shrines. The corridor that leads to it is the perennially full of crowd Nakamise-dori, a streetful of souvenir shops and eats. It is bookended by the Kaminarimon or Thunder Gate, and the Hozomon or The Treasure House Gate.
Asakusa is the cultural centre of Japan’s capital, Edo, since the 1600s, which is now known as Tokyo. Kyoto would have more old structures intact, but isn’t as near to Tokyo, as Asakusa, being at the core of it.
Tourists are attracted to what is distinct, what is alien, what is authentic and uniquely Japanese.
The Asahi Beer Hall and Tokyo Skytree
They behoove attention. The attention that could come with awe, interest, curiosity, shock, or hilarity. If Sensoji is old Japan, the sight of these structures embodies modern Japan.
First the Tokyo Skytree: it’s the world tallest structure at 634 meters. It is an engineering marvel to be daringly built in a well-known earthquake hotspot. I’ve included a link to a video on its design and construction. It’s a must see for engineering students and enthusiasts. It is a testament to Japanese superiority in technology and engineering design. It serves both as a telecoms tower and a multi-use tourist center.
Second is the Asahi Beer Hall, one of the main offices of Asahi, the Japanese beermaker. One of the world’s best known and most awarded designers, Frenchman, Philippe Starck. draw it Traditionally docile, compliant and conformists, the more contemporary Japanese have taken cosmopolitanism to another level.
Many developers, in Tokyo, especially in Ginza and Omotesando have engaged western architects, yielding the famous scenic structures of the modern skyline of Japan. This building however, has escaped the charm, intended to exude freedom, grace and a “burning heart of passion”, it has been joked around and is commonly called the Unchi biru or “Golden Turd” or “Golden Poop”.
Artsy, baffling, quirky, misdirected, or irresponsible—however you wish to describe it, it has made its mark. It signifies the playful, uncanny and sometimes eccentric more youthful Japan.
The Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center
Locationally, about midway the Sensoji Temple and the Asahi Beer Hall is the ACTIC.
Artistically, it is also midway. It has intermingled, in a perfect blend, the old soul and the dynamic vibe of Asakua and Japan, in general. The ACTIC is creative but not obtrusive. It is respectful of tradition while steps forward to reinvent it to timeliness and timelessness.
Personally, this building’s design and construction have endeared me to the modern native Japanese architects. I had to look it up– who designed it, and what the design concept is. It also led me to discover and appreciate other notable Japanese architects like Kengo Kuma, Kenzo Tange, Kazuo Shinohara and Arata Isozaki. Some works of theirs, I had to see for myself around Tokyo.
As observed, it was meant to appear as a stack of different houses, which carries the traditional look of indigenous Japanese houses made of slats and planks of wood; only, they are interspersed with glass, and structurally framed in metal. Mostly asymmetric, it however, is perceptively balanced; and viewed amongst the background, it blends and melds together with what is contemporary and what is customary.
Inside, it carries Japanese efficiency in space utilization. Its 8-storeys in a small 326 sqm lot space, is multi-use with a tourist information center, a conference center, and a multi-purpose hall, exhibition space, and a view deck and bar-café at the top. Its auditorium is slanted and the space underneath and above it has found veritable functions. The design is fluid, modular, has space economy, and uses natural light—all characteristic of Japanese architecture.
Tourism = Real Estate Asakusa Success
Asakusa is a magnet for tourists for many reasons. It presents Japan in a microcosm. If one is on a business trip in Tokyo and have no time to go to Kyoto or Nara or elsewhere, this is great setting to start to learn about and enjoy Japan. It has shops, street food, video arcades, thrift malls, subway malls, historical and cultural spots, accommodations of all types (capsules, ryokan, modern hotels, and AirBnBs) and a community that has grown accustomed to its role to Tokyo’s visitors. Add to that it’s accessibility via roads, the Sumida river and the multiple Asakusa train stations. It even has a direct route to Narita Airport.
The real estate asakusa industry is beneficiary to tourism’s triumphs. It is but proper to understand what draws tourists to a place.