Tokyo is one of the great world cities that few people have never heard of. But perhaps it’s because Tokyo is such a mega-metropolis, that I wasn’t able to feel much affection for it. I only spent three days there and maybe that wasn’t enough. It was the last stop of my Japan trip in 2013, with a trip to Mt Fuji bracketed in between. I stayed in a rather old but passable hotel in a neighborhood between Ueno and Asakusa, two districts with a lot of history and which I liked.
Asakusa's main attraction is Tokyo’s oldest and most well-known temple, Sensoji Temple, with over 1,300 years of history. It’s a pleasant white-and-red Buddhist temple that has a massive front gate, the Kaminarimon or Thunder Gate, with a giant paper lantern hung in between and a small but very busy shopping street, Nakamise-dori, leading up to it, with stores selling snacks and souvenirs. Passing that street brings you to another gate, a large two-story one, with three giant paper lanterns, that you pass through before entering the temple grounds. The main temple hall also features a giant paper lantern. The temple grounds is a nice place to walk around, with a pagoda, smaller halls, a 300-year-old bell and two rather stylish sitting Buddhas. Despite a slight drizzle on the afternoon I went there,the temple was busy with worshippers and tourists while the shopping street was packed.
Weirdly enough, there is also a street near Sensoji that is well-known for kitchen utensils and restaurant items like fake food dishes. I did walk by and I saw a few stores, some of which had giant colorful kitchen cups as decorations, but passed up the chance to browse.
Besides Tokyo's oldest temple, Asakusa also has its tallest tower. Tokyo Skytree is further east of Sensoji on the bank of the Sumida river. Standing 634 meters tall, the Skytree is the second-tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. I didn’t bother to go up the Skytree, because I planned to go up another skyscraper in downtown Tokyo that was free. The Skytree doesn’t have a fancy design as it is a functioning TV tower and only a small part is used for regular human activity, basically the observation deck. I'm sure the view was great though.