Asakusa, which was once touted as the leading red light district and home to various kabuki theaters is a home to various temples and shrines, such as Tokyo’s ancient Buddhist temple, the Senso-ji, and other attractions that have withstood the test of time. Locals will surely feel a tinge of nostalgia while foreigners, young or old, might have an adrenalin surge once they visit Japan’s oldest amusement park, Hanayashiki, founded in 1853. Other attractions, natural and man-made, that will surely captivate and wow tourists include an array of izakayas, ryokans, the sight of geishas and enthralling performances at the Asakusa Engei Hall.
While the attractions in Asakusa are truly a feast to the eyes and will satisfy your hunger for culture and entertainment, the district is also a haven of gustatory treats that will definitely delight your senses and fill your hungry tummy. Here Asakusa food guide presents some of the dishes that you might want to sink your teeth in while in Asakusa.
Dojo: Similar to unagi, or ocean-dwelling freshwater eel, dojo is an eel-like freshwater fish thriving in the muddy rivers and ponds in Japan. Asakusa hosts restaurants that serves dojo the traditional way, dojo is simmered in sake and is slow-cooked over charcoal fire. Though the population of the said fish has decreased over time, still this dish is considered to be one of the locals’ top favorites.
Hoppy beer and yakitori: For those who would like to unwind and have a drink or two with friends, you are in for some treat at Hoppi Street. Tourists may find working-class locals capping off their workday in one of the izakayas along the street enjoying some yakitori (grilled chicken), which is best paired with ice-cold Hoppy beer. As they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Trying out this izakayas and their offerings will give you a vibe of the life of locals in Asakusa.
Monjayaki: Craving for okonomiyaki? Asukasa’s version, the monjayaki, a pancake-batter with ingredients that you can mix and match such as beef, vegetables, fish, cheese, etc. It has variants that can cater to both vegans and those who love their meats. The fun part? You can get to cook it using tiny spatulas on a hot teppan grill for added experience.
Age-Manju: Asakusa gives manju, a Japanese confection which is typically steamed and filled with red bean filling, a twist by coating it with tempura-like batter and deep frying it to perfection for a quick go-to snack.
Kuri zenzai: Adding up to the list of must-try desserts in Asakusa is kuri zenzai, or red bean soup with chestnuts. It has been said that the red bean soup is made by artisans who have perfected the art of making anko or red bean paste.
Senbei: Another familiar sweet treat in Asakusa are senbei or rice crackers that comes in different flavors and are also a sight to behold since it is usually served freshly grilled at the storefront. The waft of its delicious scent will surely make you want to try one.
Dorayaki: Who would have thought that the world-famous character was named after a well-loved sweet treat in Asakusa, the Dorayaki or Japanese pancakes stuffed with sweet bean paste stuffing. Fluffy pancakes and sweet filling? No wonder that even Doraemon cannot get over with its taste.
Kibi Dango: Japanese dumplings, anyone? Sudden dumpling craving is not a problem for Asakusa has its well-known street food, the Kibi Dango, a food which dates back during the Edo period which is made of millet and mochi rice flour, boiled, and then coated with soy bean powder. It is best paired with cold matcha green tea or amazake (Japanese rice wine with little or no alcohol).
Melon Pan: This Japanese bread, which is considered to be melon-like in appearance and almost the size of an open fist, has a crispy outside layer—similar to a cookie. Don’t let the size deceive you for its melt-in-your-mouth taste leave you munching the entire bread.
Ice cream: Beat the summer heat in Asakusa with ice cream with a wide variety of flavors to choose from like matcha, black sesame, sweet potato, and sake. Those who love to experiment with their food flavors will absolutely enjoy the flavor choices of this cold and creamy treat.
Asakusa is indeed not just a place of entertainment. It is also a venue of sweet and savory dishes that will keep your tummy satisfied and your energy restored. ‘Till our next Japan food adventure.
Aleli is a wanderlust whose main itinerary is to culture soak in the places that she sets foot on, sinking her teeth in the gustatory offerings that the place has to offer and knowing the story behind it. Food for her is a marriage of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the rich history of every city she explores and uses the pen as her tool to share to the world each unique experience she unravels.