Exploring Nakamise-dōri in Asakusa

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The impressive Kaminarimon Gate in Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, marks the approach to Sensō-ji Temple and is also the entrance of Nakamise-dōri (仲見世通り). The famous street has all the signs of old world Japan: strolling down it is a great way to experience the Japanese culture and way of life. The shops along Nakamise-dōri sell a range of items, such as traditional Japanese wooden dolls, hair accessories, post cards, and other ideal souvenirs to remind you of your adventures in Japan. And if you get hungry, you can always fill up on delicious Japanese street food.

Kaminarimon Gate, entrance to Sensō-ji Temple and Nakamise-dōri. | Michael Cornelius

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Nakamise-dōri is one of the oldest shopping streets in Japan. A warlord named Tokugawa Ieyasu once ruled over Japan during the Sengoku Period (1493-1590). He was responsible for the creation of the Edo Shogunate that made Edo, now modern day Tokyo, a thriving and prosperous city. This brought an influx of people to the great city. Many people would regularly visit Sensō-ji Temple; residents took the opportunity to make a living by setting up shops on the nearby street. This is said to be the birth of Nakamise-dōri.

Nakamise-dōri. | David Gómez

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In 1885, all shop owners were ordered to vacate the street to make way for the development of the area into Western-styled brick structures. Once finished, shop owners soon returned. In 1923, when the Great Kantō earthquake hit Tokyo, many of the shops were in ruins. They were rebuilt this time using concrete but yet again sustained heavy damage during the WWII bombings.

Nakamise-dōri shutter art. | Chang’r

Today, the front shutters of every store along the row of Nakamise-dōri establishments are used as a large single canvas with images meticulously depicting traditional events and scenes for each season in Asakusa. The street, about 250 meters long, has around 90 shops. It’s a worthwhile visit just to look at the amazing artwork even when the stores have already closed for the night.