Nakamise shopping street is THE place for souvenirs. The street is located in Asakusa, and the entrance to Nakamise-dori is marked by a large gate (known as Kaminarimon) with a well-decorated bell on top.
Past the gate are rows and rows of tiny shops and stalls that sell everything from Japanese souvenirs to ice cream sandwiches and fish crackers. It’s a budget haven that can also be called a tourist trap – and if you leave the area empty-handed, you’re gonna have to tell me your secret. I did my entire souvenir shopping here. Bargaining is a concept that’s quite alien in Japan, but the more you buy in one shop, the more they give you a ‘special discount’ and trying to ask for a lower price than that will just get you a firm headshake.
Asakusa’s main attraction is the Senso-ji temple, which is located at the end of Nakamise-dori. This temple is just a building, i.e. it doesn’t have the large grounds that Meiji Jingu does, but it’s equally impressive due to its architecture and colours. The same hand-washing ritual was available here, as well as another one with smoke – the incense sticks are all lit up and placed in the center, and the smoke that arises from these incense sticks are said to have healing power. So if you want to get smarter, direct the smoke to your head; if you want to cure your legs/ stomach/ back etc, direct the smoke to the appropriate body part.
You can also get your fortune read; if it’s good luck, you can take it home with you, but if it’s bad luck, then you tie it at the shrine, leaving your bad luck behind, as they say. I got some bad luck; I wanted to pick again but unfortunately that’s not how it works, so I tied mine up at the shrine in the hope that it’ll never find me.
After the temple visit and Nakamise-dori, we headed for a river cruise along the Sumida River. The cruise runs all day in thirty-minute intervals, and there are three to four different routes to choose from. It was nightfall already, and the Tokyo Skytree was beautifully lit up. The boat ride was breezy but not as enjoyable as I expected, probably because the boat was enclosed. The Skytree is actually an observation tower as well as a telephone/ broadcasting tower and a restaurant. The Tokyo Skytree station is a metro station by itself, and you can get off here and head to the rooftop for more stunning views of the Skytree. It’s also a pretty romantic setting, with a small garden, a few benches, and yellow lights shining from selected trees.