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Street Performers, Arts & Entertainment in Asakusa - Local Tokyo

In the shotengai streets near Senso-ji temple

Senso-ji temple is the most famous spot in Tokyo's Asakusa district, but there is more to see. Performers and performing arts are also part of Asakusa’s heritage.

So when you come to Senso-ji and look at the temple’s buildings, statues, and big gates don’t stop there. Please take a walk around the temple grounds with all its buildings and statues and then see more of Asakusa.

As any guidebook will tell you, Asakusa is an old entertainment district that used to have many theaters, offering anything from Kabuki to movies. Most of the theaters are gone now, but a few are still left and especially on the weekends many fun street performers come here. I have seen skilled jugglers, magicians, storytellers, musicians, and living statues here. Others twisted balloons, created street art illusions and pictures, and play characters from Dragon Ball or Japanese oni demons.

A walk in Asakusa will take you through many shotengai - Japanese style shopping streets. Here you can find many old shops still operating. There are small cafes, restaurants, and shops selling traditional clothing and sandals, souvenirs, and snacks. Some of these shops and shotengai streets are decorated to evoke the images of older times.

In these fun shotengai streets you are most likely to find street performers and other arts and entertainment.

Hanayashiki-entertainment-dori: the street on the map going from the top of Senso-ji's pagoda left along tiny Hanayashiki amusement park. Small bars and restaurants here include tasty ramen noodles and sweet taiyaki cakes. At the ninja store here you can register for lessons in the ninja arts taught by ninja performers of Hanayashiki. There is also kimono rental available from several shops here that let you pretend to go back in time. You can see street performers here quite often and if you visit Hanayashiki, you can see performers there stage ninja fighting scenes or small plays with monsters and super heroes.

Rokku Broadway: running down from the JRA building (horse racing association) and the Chaplin figure on the map to the ROX building. Here is the Asakusa Don Quijote store where you can buy everything from sake to makeup and costumes. On the corner opposite Don Quijote is an old theatre for Japanese comedy manzai and rakugo storytelling, the Asakusa Toyokan (浅草東洋館). People still line up for performances everyday and outside the building posters show famous actors and comedians who started their careers here. Another place where some comedians started out is the strip club theater ROCKZA (浅草ロック座) on the other side of the Don Quijote shop. A Manboo Internet and manga cafe is located in the same building, just look for the mark with the yellow fish to find it. Several big complexes are now being rebuilt on this street. Now street performers use the construction site as a backdrop for their improvised stages.

Denbou-in-dori: the street running left to right under the green area of Senso-ji's garden, starting near the ricksha picture. This cute street is decorated in old Edo style. Take a look at Japanese textile prints, old kimonos, and the gate to Senso-ji temple's garden. The Asakusa Public Hall (浅草公会堂) here shows kabuki plays and has a collection of handprints of famous actors in the floor near the entrance. Along the street are sculptures of the five thieves called Shiranami Gonin Otoko from a well-known Kabuki play.

Please enjoy a walk around Asakusa. You cannot really get lost, just continue through the small streets and you are sure to discover a small bar, restaurant or cafe perfect for a break before you continue to explore.

by David

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