As my first trip to Japan, I allowed myself to go to many ‘touristy spots’ in Tokyo without feeling guilty about it. Meiji shrine? Check. Kamakura Daibutsu? Check again. Shibuya Crossing, photo with Hachiko Statue? Been there, done that.
And as such, I often found myself surrounded by tourists, not knowing how to get out or even thinking if the place was worth staying in the middle of all these bodies of excited and loud foreigners. I quickly got used to waking up at 5am and making the most of the day before any others like myself arrived to disturb the charm of the place. Tourists start to emerge from about 9am, so I had time before that to cross off the major spots from my list before it became full of people.
I was lucky enough to get to Asakusa at 7:30am, seeing Sensô-ji when the shops on Nakamise Street were still closed, their roller shutters painted with beautiful pictures of scenes from a traditional Japanese life.
I was accompanied only by a couple of elder people visiting the temple for their prayers and a few others walking by quickly to get somewhere. The morning not yet warm and the pools of rain water from the night before still drying on the ground, unsettled only by a passerby on a bike on their way to school or work.
Many people complain about the tsuyu rainy season, saying July probably isn’t the best time to go to Japan, rain appearing without a warning beforehand and the skies staying grey for a great chunk of the day. But I personally love rain, and the best mornings are those with fresh air and the quiet sound of raindrops pattering on umbrellas while you take a stroll through a beautiful place.
I took a good two hours to look at the whole temple grounds of Sensô-ji, later going to the Amuse Museum, an 100yen shop, stopping for lunch at a small family restaurant, taking a walk around the neighbourhood, visiting the Edo-Shitamachi Crafts Museum, going down Kappabashi Dori where they were doing some sort of celebration and finally returning to Sensô-ji, seeing Asakusa slowly go from early morning calm and quiet to bustling tourist spot.
Once I found myself again surrounded by tourists and any photo I took was interrupted by someone’s head in the way, someone’s camera or phone in the way or a street pole in the way, I decided to leave Asakusa and head off to somewhere I’d easier appreciate the people; Nakano Broadway.