12/15/2014 06:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

On Japanese Culture: Tokyo's Asakusa Shrine

While of course I had heard about the shrine at Asakusa in northern Tokyo, everyone initially told me to go there for its infamous colorful market rather than the shrine, which is known to be one of the more traditional markets in the city. I did in fact find it interesting and took a boat load of photos -- see my separate article on the Asakusa Market. While the place is in fact all things traditional, it is also seething with tourists.

That said, it is one of those places that despite the abundance of foreigners, the shrine is still so inspiring that it's easy to overlook the commercialism, especially with the breathtaking Asakusa Shrine at the end of one of the market streets.

Asakusa-jinja, also known as Sanja-sama ("Shrine of the Three Gods"), is one of the most famous Shinto shrines in Tokyo and is part of a larger grouping of sacred buildings in the area. Located in Asakusa, the shrine honors the three men who founded the Sensō-ji.

You can easily see all of this by foot. My recommendation is to to the market first and get shopping out of your system, so that you can be fully present at the shrine without the attraction of consumer goods and food around the corner. While there's no doubt, it will be crowded, you can still get lost in its presence.

Once upon a time (and I mean a long long time ago), Asakusa used to be Tokyo's leading entertainment district however during the Edo Period (1603-1867) when the district was still located outside the city limits, Asakusa was the site of kabuki theaters and a large red light district. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, modern types of entertainment, including movie theaters, set foot in Asakusa.

However, large parts of Asakusa were destroyed in the air raids of World War Two. And while the area around the rebuilt Sensoji has regained its former popularity after the war, the same cannot be said for Asakusa's entertainment district.

Think of the area as a place to meander and soak in the culture rather than a place you might hang in Tokyo several days or nights during your stay. The shrine is simply breathtaking and could easily warrant a second trip in my opinion although some travelers will say you can explore it all in an hour or two. BUT, I'd argue that to see the shrine at different times of day could be enlightening. Below, the views of this majestic shrine that inspired me so....below them is a video I shot while walking through the shine.

All photo credits: Renee Blodgett

Below is a video I shot walking through the shrine.


Asakusa Shrine

2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito

Tokyo 111-0032 Japan