Visiting Toyosu Market

Visited the new Toyosu Market on the second day (Oct. 15, 2018) it opened to the public. It’s proving to be massively popular among the curious and sushi lovers. This blog post is for people who plan to visit the market. So you know what to expect.

Toyosu Market is near Shijo-mae Station (seen on the left above) on the Yurikamome Line that runs between Shimbashi and Toyosu Stations.

Shijo-mae Station is connected directly to convenient pedestrian overpasses leading to the three Toyosu Market buildings/blocks. (That’s Block 6 in the distance.)

The official website provides this very basic map of Toyosu Market. There are three blocks/buildings all connected to each other and to Shijo-mae Station via pedestrian overpasses. The red lines on this map show the pedestrian overpass to each block. All three buildings have a long tourist corridor with picture windows to see inside the market.

When the market is open (closed on Sun.), tourists can tour the three Toyosu Market buildings from 5 am to 5 pm. However, there’s not much market action after late morning.

Besides the markets, there are sushi restaurants. The problem with this map is that it doesn’t show where the restaurants are. They are in Blocks 6 and 7. Very crowded though.

Block 7 is where the tuna auctions are held, but the public won’t be able to see the auction area until next Jan. But if you come here by 6 am or so, you should be able to see some tuna being hauled away on the floor. This block also has some restaurants.

Block 6 is the largest building of the three. This is where the sold tuna is carved up. This building also has a large sushi restaurant area that is not indicated on this map. The upper floor also has little shops (Uogashi Yokocho Market) for people who work at the market. They sell knives, tea, etc., and also sell to the public, but the shops close by 2 pm or so.

Block 5 is the fruit and vegetable market. Least crowded. No restaurants inside.

This is Block 7 where the tuna auctions are held. Let’s enter here first. Notice the pedestrian overpass going into the building.
Directional signs for tourists are in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean.
Block 7 has this small exhibition room with photos of the old Tsukiji fish market and other things.
Exhibition room in Block 7.
Tuna display in the small exhibition room in Block 7.
Toyosu Market’s official mascot: Itchi-no.
Information desk in Block 7’s exhibition room. Lots of questions from foreigners to staff who couldn’t really speak English.
Another crowd-pleasing tuna display in Block 7. Life-size model of the biggest tuna ever sold at Tsukiji fish market in April 1986. 2.88 meters long, 496 kg. Didn’t say how much it sold for.
Block 7’s tourist corridor with glass windows to see the tuna floor.
View of the tuna floor in Block 7. The floor was painted green for better contrast with the tuna’s red flesh to assess the quality. We visited around 2 pm, so nobody was here. You have to come here by 6 am or 7 am to see some action.

Nice bilingual (Japanese and English) explanatory panels in the corridors. At 2 am, they unload the tuna here. At 4 am, buyers examine the tuna and assess the bid price. At 4:30 am, auction starts. At 7 am, the buyers are busy hauling away the tuna.

Hand signals to indicate numbers at auctions.
By far, tuna is the biggest product the fish market handles annually at 21,692 tons (as of 2015).
Block 7 has a restaurant section (not indicated on the official map). All crowded.
Next is Block 6 where the fish is carved up and sold to sushi restaurants and supermarkets. This is the largest building of the three.
Block 6 has this small entrance to the restaurant section.

Block 6’s restaurant section is the larger one at Toyosu Market. However, all the restaurants were totally crowded with people by 1:30 pm. Many restaurants that were at Tsukiji moved here or opened a branch here. Wanna wait 1 to 2 hours for sushi?? Nope, but these people don’t seem to mind.

If you want sushi and don’t want to wait in line, go to the Tsukiji Outer Market instead.

Long lines everywhere for sushi. The restaurants usually sell out by 2 pm, then they close. The huge crowd is either here for the novelty of a new attraction or they may be a strong sign of Toyosu Market’s massive popularity.

I’m afraid the Tsukiji Outer Market will soon be marginalized by Toyosu Market. The market is the heart and soul, and it’s now in Toyosu. The fishmongers in Toyosu are very gung-ho now and really want the Toyosu brand to exceed the old Tsukiji brand.

Only this coffee shop was not crowded. So we gave up having a sushi lunch at Toyosu Market. There are plans to build larger restaurant facilities in buildings adjacent to the market. However, they won’t open until 2023.
After seeing the Block 6 restaurants, we walked along this long corridor and entered the market part of the building.
Block 6’s market entry hall had two turret trucks on display.
Anybody could get on the turret truck and pose for photos.
Also in the corridor, bilingual explanatory panels for identifying fish.

Block 6 has many windows for tourists, but you can hardly see anything. We can see just a small slit of the market floor. Just a pathway for the people and turret trucks, you don’t see the sellers. However, I was later told that there is also a viewing deck on the first floor where there is a better view.

Block 6’s upper floor has a section of shops called Uogashi Yokocho Market. (This section is not indicated on the official map.) These are small shops catering mainly to market workers. They also sell to the public. However, by 2:00 pm most of the stores were closing.

Cutlery shop in Uogashi Yokocho Market.
Map of Uogashi Yokocho Market in Block 6. Lots of little shops.
Many of the shops had congratulatory flowers for their grand opening.
Lastly, this is the fruit and vegetable market, Block 5.
Entrance to the fruit and vegetable market.
The observation corridor for tourists inside the fruit and vegetable market. Lots of windows, but they don’t show much.
Each observation window was color-coded and named after a fruit or vegetable. A nice touch.
Not much to see though.
Corridor wall also had panels explaining the history of the food and vegetable market in Tokyo.
Better view of the fruit/vegetable market toward the end of the corridor.
Hauling green onions.
At the end of the corridor, there’s this big observation deck where you can see the wholesale section of the fruit and vegetable market.
Not much action in the fruit and vegetable market since it was in the afternoon.
The fruit market’s biggest item is mikan (tangerines), then citrus.
The vegetable market’s biggest item is cabbage, then daikon.
Across the water from Toyosu is the Tokyo Olympic Village under construction.

Since we couldn’t eat sushi at Toyosu Market, we took the train to Toyosu Station two stops away and had a late lunch there instead. Near Toyosu Station is a restaurant called Cafe Haus. It’s a good restaurant. At least we ate in Toyosu.

On a street corner near Toyosu Station is where 7-11’s first store in Japan opened in 1974. It’s still operating here in the same building. Toyosu is quite a new, modern town. Lots of construction still going on. It’s turning out quite well.

Awa Odori 2018 schedule in Tokyo-Kanto

This is the 2018 schedule of Awa Odori dance festivals to be held in the Tokyo/Kanto area (Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba Prefectures) from June to October 2018. Nobody has compiled such a schedule so I did it myself.

Most Awa Odori are held in the summer and a few are held in autumn. A few are held as part of a local festival like Tanabata. Most are held on two days, but a few are held only on one day. Some Awa Odori also have a festival eve events on the day before the Awa Odori.

Official websites usually have information only in Japanese. Click on the train station names to see a Google Map of that station. Double question marks (??) indicate unconfirmed info. Also, an illustrated list of essential Awa Odori vocabulary is provided at the end. (Great for people learning Japanese.)

Go to Schedule by Month:

June | July | August | September | October

Note for spectators:
Summer can be very hot and humid. Be prepared with cold drinks, ice pack, etc. Rain (including typhoons) is always possible. A raincoat is better than an umbrella in crowds. Watch the weather and be prepared. Heavy rain or storms can cancel the event. Take pictures/videos only from the sidelines, do not enter the parade route to shoot. Do not use tripods. Strollers should not be used. And no smoking.

Festivals can always be canceled in bad weather. Typhoons and rainstorms are always possible in summer. If the weather forecast looks bad, check whether the festival will be held.

*Awa Odori in Tokushima is held annually on Aug. 12th–15th, 2018.

*Awa Odori scheduled for July 28–29 may be canceled due to the typhoon.


Compiled by Philbert Ono, Updated: Aug. 25, 2018

–JUNE 2018 (6月)–

Hibiya Expo Oedo Matsuri 日比谷大江戸まつり (Tokyo)
・When: June 9–10, 2018, 10:00 am–8:00 pm (till 6:00 pm on 10th)
・Where: Hibiya Park, near Hibiya Station, Kasumigaseki Station, and JR Yurakucho Station.
・About: Only a few awa odori troupes appear in this parade of different festivals.
・Official website:

–JULY 2018 (7月)–

Koiwa Awa Odori 小岩阿波おどり (Katsushika-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 7, 2018, 6:15 pm–8:15 pm
・Where: Near JR Koiwa Station, North Exit (JR Sobu Line).
・About: New awa odori that started four years ago. About 15 troupes.
・Official website:

Oedo Niiza Matsuri (Awa Odori) 大江戸新座祭り (阿波おどり) (Niiza, Saitama)
・When: July 21, 2018, 3:30 pm–7:30 pm
・Where: Near JR Niiza Station (JR Musashino Line), South Exit, Furusato Niiza-kan hall area.
・About: The Niiza Awa Odori was held for 32 years until 2014. It has been replaced by this Oedo Niiza Festival in 2015. It is now a local summer festival starting at 11:00 am and featuring a variety of stage entertainment and performers including a school band, hip hop, and samba dancers before climaxing with Awa Odori in the end during 5:05 pm–7:30 pm. About 20 Awa Odori troupes will dance.
・Official website:

Kagurazaka Matsuri Festival (Awa Odori) 神楽坂まつり(阿波おどり) (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 27–28, 2018, 7:00 pm–9:00 pm (Children’s dance on 28th from 6 pm to 7 pm) (JULY 28 CANCELED DUE TO THE TYPHOON)
・Where: Near JR Iidabashi Station (JR Sobu Line and subway lines), Kagurazaka Station (Tozai Line), Ushigome-Kagurazaka Station (Oedo Line).
・About: Held since 1972. Over 40 dance troupes and a total of 3,700 participants. The local troupe is Kagurazaka Kagura-ren with over 100 members.
・Official website:

Kasei Awa Odori かせい阿波おどり (Nakano-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 28 (4:00 pm–6:00 pm CANCELLED DUE TO TYPHOON) and 29 (5:00 pm–8:00 pm), 2018
・Where: Near Toritsu Kasei Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line).
・About: Held since 1979. About 10 troupes will dance along the narrow shopping street near the train station. Since the dance route is narrow, you can see the dancers up close. The dance route is cut in half (north and south) by the train line. Local troupe is Kasei-ren formed by the local neighborhood when the festival started.
・Official website:

Kitamachi Awa Odori きたまち阿波おどり (Nerima-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 28, 2018, 6:00 pm
・Where: Near Tobu Nerima Station, South Exit (Tobu-Tojo Line). (DUE to the TYPHOON, to be held indoors at the Kitamachi Jr. High Gymnasium)
・About: Kitamachi is a small neighborhood near Tobu-Nerima Station. Over 20 dance troupe including local troupes from Kitamachi: Ponpoko-ren and Jajauma-ren.
・Official website:

Mobara Awa Odori (Mobara Tanabata Matsuri) もばら阿波おどり (Mobara, Chiba)
・When: July 28, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:10 pm (CANCELED DUE TO THE TYPHOON)
・Where: Near JR Mobara Station (JR Sotobo Line), East Exit, Sun City shopping street.
・About: Part of the Mobara Tanabata Matsuri to be held on July 27–29, 2018. On July 28, an opening ceremony will be held at 5:30 pm, and Awa Odori dancing will start at 6 pm. Eleven troupes will appear along a circular route starting and ending at Sogo Shimin Center.
・Official website:

Koganei Awa Odori 小金井阿波おどり (Koganei, Tokyo)
・When: July 28–29, 2018, 6:00 pm–9:00 pm (JULY 28 CANCELED DUE TO THE TYPHOON)
・Where: Near JR Musashi Koganei Station, North and South Exits.
・About: There are multiple dance venues near the station, making it less crowded at each one. About 24 troupes will appear each evening.
・Official website:

Kanagawa Yamato Awa Odori 神奈川大和阿波おどり (Yamato, Kanagawa)
・When: July 28–29, 2018, 4:30 pm–8:30 pm (JULY 28 CANCELED DUE TO THE TYPHOON)
・Where: Near Yamato Station (Odakyu Enoshima Line and Sotetsu Line)
・About: About 16 troupes. On July 15, they also hold an indoor performance (“Zomeki Yamato”) in Yamato Geijutsu Bunka Hall (¥1,500 paid seating).
・Official website:

–AUGUST 2018 (8月)–

Kojiya Awa Odori 糀谷阿波おどり (Ota-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 3–4, 2018, 7:00 pm–9:00 pm
・Where: Near Kojiya Station (Keikyu Airport Line).
・About: Two-day festival long a local shopping street with 10 dance troupes and 600 participants.
・Official website:

Higashi-Rinkan Awa Odori (Summer Wanival) 東林間サマーわぁ!ニバル (Sagamihara, Kanagawa)
・When: Aug. 4–5, 2018, 5:20 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Higashi-Rinkan Station (Odakyu Enoshima Line, local train only, do not ride any express trains).
・About: Quite a big event with over 20 troupes on each day. Local troupes from Sagamihara are Higashi-Rinkan-ren, Hotaru-ren, Goraku-ren, Aun-ren, Hiyori-ren, and Issui-ren.
・Official website:

Naka-Meguro Summer Festival 中目黒夏まつり (Meguro-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 4, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Naka-Meguro Station (Tokyu Toyoko Line and Hibiya Line).
・About: It’s a two-day summer festival. The first day (Aug. 4) features Awa Odori (27 troupes) and the second day (Aug. 5) has yosakoi dancers (33 groups). At 5:30 pm on both days, there’s an opening ceremony. They dance along the shopping streets next to the train/subway station, but the streets are narrow and it’s mostly standing room only. Normal people also walk along the streets so it can be hard to get good photos. But you get to see the dancers and musicians up close.
・Official website:

Sayama Irumagawa Tanabata Matsuri (Awa Odori) 狭山入間川七夕まつり (Sayama, Saitama)
・When: Aug. 5, 2018, 4:30 pm–6:30 pm??
・Where: Near Sayama-shi Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line).
・About: Two-day summer festival featuring a variety of performers and events. Fireworks on the first evening and Awa Odori on the second day from 4:30 pm–6:30 pm?? Eight Awa Odori troupes will dance.
・Official website:

Kumegawa Awa Odori 東村山久米川阿波おどり (Higashi-Murayama, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 18, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Kumegawa Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line) and Yasaka Station (Seibu Tamako Line), Wing-dori, Shopping Promenade Yasaka.
・About: Local troupe is Kumegawa-ren.
・Official website:

Mitaka Awa Odori 三鷹阿波おどり (Mitaka, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 18–19, 2018, 6:00pm–9:00 pm
・Where: Near JR Mitaka Station, South Exit (JR Chuo Line).
・About: About 26 troupes parading on a straight road along the shopping street. Many troupes are from Mitaka like Inokashira-ren, Mitaka-ren, and Rhythm-ren.
・Official website:

Shimo-Kitazawa Ichibangai Awa Odori 下北沢一番街 阿波おどり (Setagaya-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 18-19, 2018, 6:30 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Shimo-Kitazawa Station, North Exit (Inokashira Line and Odakyu Line).
・About: Held along the Ichibangai shopping streets.There will be around 12 dance troupes on both nights, including Hifumi-ren and Yattoko-ren which are from Shimo-Kitazawa. One troupe will be for anyone to join in and dance (tobi-iri-ren). From 8:10 pm to 8:30 pm, each troupe will give a dance performance at designated places. Note that the streets are quite narrow with little room to sit. It’s basically a standing room-only festival.
・Official website:

Ontake Furusato Odori おんたけ ふるさと踊り (Ota-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 19, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Ontakesan Station (Tokyu Ikegami Line).
・About: A two-day dance festival with a Bon dance held on the first night (Aug. 18) and Awa Odori on the second night. There will be around five Awa Odori dance troupes. Most are quite famous in Tokyo. The local troupes includes Kusunoki-ren.
・Official website:

Koenji Awa Odori (Koenji, Suginami-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 25–26, 2018, 5:00 pm–8:00 pm
・Where: Near JR Koenji Station (JR Chuo Line) and Shin-Koenji Station (Marunouchi subway line).
・About: Tokyo’s biggest Awa Odori with over 50 dance troupes each evening and a million spectators over the two days. There are multiple venues or roads where they dance. The larger roads are very crowded, but the narrower parade paths are less crowded. Go early if you want to sit in a good spot.
・Official website:

Minami-Koshigaya Awa Odori 南越谷阿波おどり (Koshigaya, Saitama)
・When: Aug. 25–26, 2018, 4:20 pm–9:00 pm
・Where: Near JR Minami-Koshigaya Station (JR Musashino Line) and Shin-Koshigaya Station (Tobu Skytree Line).
・About: Big Awa Odori with about 80 troupes over the festival period. Four dance venues including a stage and indoor hall. Festival eve on Aug. 24 at 7:00 pm–9:00 pm at the Koshigaya Community Center. They will also have dancers performing inside the Koshigaya Community Center on both days.
・Official website:

Otsuka Awa Odori 東京大塚阿波おどり (Toshima-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 25, 2018, 4:30 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near JR Otsuka Station, South Exit (Yamanote Line), Shin-Otsuka Station (Marunouchi Line).
・About: For the festival eve the night before on Aug. 24 at 5:00 pm, dances will be performed in the Minami Otsuka Hall. This is one of the samller and less crowded Awa Odori in Tokyo. Probably because it is held at the same time as much bigger Awa Odori.
・Official website:

–SEPTEMBER 2018 (9月)–

Inagi Awa Odori 稲城阿波おどり大会 (Inagi, Tokyo)
・When: Sept. 1, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm
・Where: Near Keio Yomiuriland Station (Keio Line).
・About: Dance venues are in front of the train station and nearby streets. Not crowded at all.
・Official website:

Kita-Urawa Awa Odori 北浦和阿波おどり (Saitama city, Saitama)
・When: Sept. 1, 2018, 5:00 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Kita-Urawa Station (JR Keihin-Tohoku Line).
・About: This is the finale of the local Urawa Matsuri festival held since July. A music parade first starts at 4 pm before the Awa Odori at 5 pm. About 16 troupes appear.
・Official website:

Nakamurabashi Awa Odori 中村橋阿波おどり (Nerima-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Sept. 2, 2018, 5:30 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Nakamurabashi Station (Seibu-Ikebukuro Line).
・About: Held annually on the first weekend of Sept. There will be 12 dance troupes and 600 people in the parade. On the festival eve on Sat. the day before, they will have entertainment and flea market from 2:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
・Official website:

Hatsudai Awa Odori 初台阿波踊り (Hatsudai, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Held annually on Sept. 22–23, starts at 6:45 pm and ends at around 9:00 pm.
・Where: Near Hatsudai Station (Keio Line).
・About: Dance route is about 1 km long, starting near Hatsudai Station. One long route. Started in 1970 to join the Yoyogi Hachimangu Shrine’s main festival and revitalize the shopping street. Local troupes include Hatsuda-ren, Chibikko-ren, Fuji-ren, Yiko-ren, and Koburyu-ren.
・Official website:

–OCTOBER 2018 (10月)–

Kawasaki Awa Odori かわさき阿波おどり (Kawasaki, Kanagawa)
・When: Oct. 6, 2018, 4:00 pm–8:00 pm
・Where: Near Keikyu Kawasaki Station (Keihin Kyuko) and JR Kawasaki Station (JR Keihin Tohoku and Tokaido Lines).
・About: Started in 1986. About 15 troupes (over 600 performers) will dance.
・Official website:

Misato Awa Odori (Japan Festa Autumn) みさと阿波おどり (Misato, Saitama)
・When: Oct. 28, 2018, 10:00 am–3:00 pm
・Where: Misato Park (From JR Kanamachi Station on the JR Joban Line, take the bus bound for Misato Station or Misato Chuo Station and get off at Takasu-chiku Bunka Center Iriguchi. Or from Misato Station on the JR Musashino Line or Misato Chuo Station on the Tsukuba Express Line, take a bus bound for Kanamachi Station Minami-guchi and get off at Misato Koen-mae.)
・About: Festival featuring not only awa odori, but also taiko drummers. Misato Park is on the border with Katsushika Ward’s Mizumoto Park in Tokyo.
・Official website:


Awa Odori (阿波おどり)

Awa Odori (阿波おどり or 阿波踊り) – Dance of Awa Province. “Awa” is the old name for present-day Tokushima Prefecture where the dance originated. “Awa” does not mean “bubble” (泡) in this case. “Odori” means “dance.” It is based on the bon dance to welcome returning spirits of the deceased.

ren (連)

ren (連) – Awa Odori dance troupe. The troupe’s name is tagged with “ren” at the end. A few troupes use a different tag instead of “ren.” A troupe consists of child, male, and female dancers and musicians. At the head is a pole lantern bearing the name of the troupe. “Jimoto-ren” (地元連) is a troupe from the place where the Awa Odori is held. And “shotai-ren” (招待連) are invited troupes.

Niwaka-ren (にわか連) – Dance troupe for anyone to freely join in and dance (tobi-iri sanka). No special costume required. Easy to spot since they wear no uniform and look disorganized. Some Awa Odori festivals have a Niwaka-ren. Or sometimes at the end, anyone can join in with the dance troupe.

embujo (演舞場)

embujo (演舞場) – Dance venue where the troupes dance for spectators. This is usually a section of a street or large avenue. There may be bleachers or just a sidewalk where people can sit and watch. The bleachers are for paid seating. The venue may also be called “kaijo” (会場) which is a generic term for venue and may be numbered.

Nagashi-odori (dance parade)

nagashi-odori (流し踊り) – Dancers dance while moving down the road in a parade.

kumi-odori (組踊り)

kumi-odori (組踊り) – Instead of moving in a parade, the dancers perform in one location for a prolonged period around 15-20 min. It could be a special area along the parade route or a stage. Often performed as the final number.

otoko odori (男踊り)

otoko odori (男踊り)

otoko odori (男踊り) – Men’s dance where they crouch low with the knees pointed outward. They usually wear a happi coat, shorts, and tabi socks. They may also dance with an uchiwa fan or paper lantern. Children and women can also dance the men’s dance. In the troupe, otoko odori usually appears before the onna odori.

onna odori (女踊り)

onna odori (女踊り) – Women’s dance. They wear a yukata, crescent-shaped hat, and wooden geta clogs. They dance in various formations while hopping on their clogs. Elegant-looking and the troupe’s main members.

aho (阿保)

aho (阿保) – Fool. Awa Odori dancers shake their hands above their heads. This is happens to be the Japanese gesture to indicate one’s idiocy. So it is nicknamed the “fool’s dance.”

“Yatto-sa! Yatto-sa!” (ヤットサーヤットサー)

“Yatto-sa! Yatto-sa!” (ヤットサーヤットサー) – “Yatto-sa, yatto-yatto, yoisa, yatto-sa!” A dance cheer often shouted by dancers. It means, “Long time no see! How have you been?” This is not normal Japanese.

yakko odori (やっこ踊り)

yakko odori (やっこ踊り) – Kite dance with an acrobatic dancer miming as a kite controlled by a kite handler with an invisible string. Humorous and dramatic especially when the kite does cartwheels and somersaults. Only a few troupes perform the kite dance.

kane (鉦)

fue (笛)

shamisen (三味線)

taiko (太鼓)

narimono (鳴り物) – Musicians. They appear at the end of the dance troupe and consist of flute players (fue 笛), shamisen players (三味線), bell player (kane 鉦) who sets the rhythm, and taiko drummers at the end.

Sensoji Temple in Asakusa

Sensoji Temple’s Hondo main hall.

“If you don’t visit Asakusa, you haven’t seen Tokyo” is what I always tell my tourist friends visiting Tokyo, even those who don’t like crowds or tourist traps. Amid this megacity’s modernity, Asakusa is an oasis of Tokyo’s “old town.” Asakusa’s fame and popularity is owed to Sensoji Temple (浅草寺), Tokyo’s most famous and popular Buddhist temple also called “Asakusa Kannon Temple.”

Kaminarimon Gate, symbol of Asakusa (and Tokyo).

The iconic symbol of Sensoji Temple and Asakusa is Kaminarimon Gate or “Thunder Gate,” the temple’s main gate with a giant red paper lantern. It is one of Japan’s most photographed buildings and a prime spot for “I’m in Tokyo” selfies. Both the gate (rebuilt in 1960) and giant paper lantern were donated by a major Japanese electronics company (Matsushita aka Panasonic). The giant paper lantern can be collapsed from the bottom up to make way for portable shrines, etc., passing through.

Bird’s eye view of Kaminarimon Gate, Nakamise, and Sensoji from the eighth floor of the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center.
Nakamise in spring.
Japanese souvenirs galore at Asakusa Nakamise.

Right after Thunder Gate is the Nakamise-dori path (仲見世通り) of touristy souvenir shops leading to Sensoji Temple. They sell just about all the Japanese trinkets you can imagine, including T-shirts, kimono (yukata), and happi coats. Lots of edible things too, like chestnuts and fried manju.

Nakamise ends with Hozomon Gate (宝蔵門) housing another large paper lantern and a pair of Nio guardians protecting the temple. Hozomon Gate (“Treasure Storage Gate”) was reconstructed in 1964 with ferroconcrete. The second floor houses Important Cultural Properties (not open to the public). The back of the gate has a pair of giant straw sandals to scare away evil spirits fearful of the giant guardian the sandals belong to.

Approaching Hozomon Gate.
Back of Hozomon Gate with a pair of giant straw sandals.

After Hozomon Gate is the heart of Sensoji Temple (and Asakusa) with the picturesque five-story pagoda and Hondo main hall. Before entering the main hall, you may want to catch some smoke from the incense burner. Worshippers scoop the smoke to the parts of their bodies they want to heal. Students studying for entrance exams might fan some smoke to their heads.

Incense burner and Hondo hall.
Incense can be bought nearby.

The main hall has a traditional design, but it was rebuilt in 1958 with ferroconcrete after the previous building from the 17th century was destroyed during World War II. Sensoji’s main hall has been destroyed (by fire, lightning, earthquakes, war, etc.) and rebuilt almost 20 times throughout the centuries. It is Sensoji’s largest building and similar in design to the previous Hondo built in 1649. Inside is a large altar for Kannon (kept hidden), popularly called the “Goddess of Mercy.” It is actually a benevolent, female Bodhisattva. Sensoji used to belong to the Tendai Buddhist sect, but it is now an independent Buddhist temple and sect.

Steps to Sensoji ‘s main hall.
Inside the Hondo main hall, paintings of heavenly beings and a dragon on the ceiling.

The five-story pagoda was reconstructed in 1973 with ferroconcrete. The top floor stores some ashes of the Buddha brought from a temple in Sri Lanka in 1966. Its corroding aluminum roof tiles were replaced with titanium tiles in 2017.

According to legend, in 628, two fishermen brothers, Hamanari and Takenari Hinokuma, found a golden Kannon buddha statue while fishing in Sumida River. Their mentor Hajinoma Nakatomo recognized the statue’s religious significance, became a monk, and converted his home into a small temple for the statue. This temple eventually grew to become Sensoji, and Asakusa also developed and prospered. Considered to be the founders of Asakusa, these three men have been deified by Asakusa Shrine (adjacent to Sensoji Temple) and honored annually by the Sanja Matsuri in May, one of Tokyo’s biggest festivals.

Sanja Matsuri and a portable shrine in front of Sensoji (Hozomon Gate in the background).

Sensoji’s main hall, pagoda, and Hozomon Gate have been recently reroofed with titanium roof tiles instead of traditional clay tiles. Since the titanium roof tiles can be painted to look like traditional roof tiles, you can’t tell the difference. Titanium roof tiles are much more expensive than clay tiles, but they are much cheaper to maintain due to their high strength, durability, and corrosion resistance to acid rain and salt air. Titanium tiles are also much lighter and smaller than clay tiles to make the building much less top heavy. Top-heavy, Japanese-style buildings are more prone to collapse in a major earthquake.

Sensoji and Asakusa hold numerous festivals and events throughout the year. During New Year’s, the temple is crowded with worshippers praying for a prosperous and safe year. On Feb. 3, there is Setsubun when they throw lucky beans. In April, see the elegant White Heron Dance (Shirasagi-no-Mai), Asakusa Yabusame horseback archery, and Hanamatsuri or Buddha’s birthday. Also in April, in a neighborhood behind Sensoji, the Ichiyo Sakura Matsuri Oiran Dochu is a pretty procession of Oiran courtesans.

In mid-May, Asakusa’s biggest festival called Sanja Matsuri is held with many portable shrines paraded along the streets. In summer, the Hozuki Festival Hozuki Ground Cherry Pod Fair is held on in early July. In late August, the lively Asakusa Samba Carnival is held. In mid-Dec., the Hagoita Battledore Festival is held. For exact dates, see

New Year’s worshippers approaching Sensoji.
Setsubun bean throwing on Feb. 3.
White Heron Dance on second Sun. of April and on Nov. 3.
Five-story pagoda and Sanja Matsuri portable shrine passing through in mid-May.
Hozuki Festival Hozuki Ground Cherry Pod Fair in July.
Hagoita Battledore Festival in Dec.
Asakusa Geisha Ozashiki Odori dance.

Asakusa also has genuine geisha since it has historically been a geisha district. They kindly hold free geisha dance performances in spring and autumn at the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center. (Video here.) Check the performance schedule here:

Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center

When in Asakusa, be sure to visit the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center near Kaminarimon Gate and Asakusa Station (Ginza and Toei Asakusa subway lines, Tsukuba Express, and Tobu Skytree Line). It’s in the distinctive eight-story building designed by Kengo Kuma (who also designed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics main stadium). You can’t miss it. They have English-speaking staff and brochures in English. The eighth floor terrace also gives great views of Asakusa. No matter when you visit Asakusa, there’s always something going on. A truly blessed place.

More Asakusa photos here:

*This article is an expanded version of my article published in via magazine, the onboard magazine of the Airport Limousine bus in the Tokyo area and lobby magazine at all branches of Mizuho Bank in Japan.

Other Tokyo Temple articles:

Koganji Temple, Sugamo (Winter 2019)

Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple (Autumn 2018)

Asakusa Sensoji Temple (Summer 2018)

Zojoji Temple (Spring 2018)

Zojoji Temple

Zojoji Temple

One of Tokyo’s most famous Buddhist temples, Zojoji (増上寺) is a major temple in the Shiba area of Minato Ward, Tokyo. It belongs to the Jodo-shu Pure Land sect (headquartered at Chion-in Temple in Kyoto).

Soon after it moved to its present site in 1598, Zojoji became the Tokugawa shogun’s family temple. A family temple is where family members are buried and periodic Buddhist prayers are held for them. With the Tokugawa being Japan’s most prominent clan during the Edo Period (1603–1868), their two family temples, Zojoji and Kan’eiji, were greatly expanded. They built grand mausoleums for themselves similar to the one in Nikko (Tochigi Prefecture) for Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa shogun. Six Tokugawa shoguns (Hidetada, Ienobu, Ietsugu, Ieshige, Ieyoshi, and Iemochi) are buried at Zojoji and six at Kan’eiji (寛永寺).

Besides the mausoleums, a huge complex of subtemples and dormitories for over 3,000 priests in training were built at Zojoji by the mid-17th century. After the demise of the Tokugawa by 1868, Zojoji was greatly scaled back in 1873. Zojoji’s vast temple grounds were divided into smaller parcels now occupied by Shiba Park, Tokyo Tower, Minato City Hall, two major hotels, public schools, and other buildings. A similar fate befell Kan’eiji whose property became Ueno Park, Shinobazu Pond, and Ueno Station.

During World War II air raids, Zojoji lost many buildings including the magnificent Tokugawa mausoleums which were National Treasures. The mausoleums were never rebuilt and the Tokugawa tombs are now in a small plot behind the temple that can be viewed by the public.

Sangedatsu-mon Gate, National Important Cultural Property. 三解脱門 (三門)
Daibonsho temple gong. Giant bell with a diameter of 1.76 meters, height of 3.33 meters and a weight of 15 tons. Made in 1673, it is one of the largest bells in eastern Japan and one of the Big Three Temple Bells of Edo. Rung six times in the early morning and evening. 鐘楼堂

When you visit Zojoji, the first building you see is the huge Sangedatsu-mon Gate (三解脱門). Built in 1622, it is the temple’s only building remaining from the 17th century. “Sangedatsu” means to be released from the three earthly states of mind: greed, anger and stupidity. The gate has been immortalized by Hiroshige’s woodblock prints.

After this gate, behold a striking contrast between the Daiden main worship hall (大殿) and Tokyo Tower (built in 1958) behind it. Rebuilt in 1974, the Daiden Hall worships a large Amida Buddha carved during the Muromachi Period (1336–1573). Anyone can enter.

Zojoji’s Daiden Hall and Tokyo Tower. 大殿

In Daiden Hall’s basement is the Zojoji Treasure Exhibition Room displaying a scale model of Taitoku-in Mausoleum (admission ¥700, closed Tue.). Dedicated to the second Tokugawa shogun Hidetada, Taitoku-in Mausoleum was Zojoji’s grandest and served as the model for Ieyasu’s Toshogu Shrine mausoleum in Nikko.

Tokugawa tombs at Zojoji Temple amid cherry blossoms in April. Admission ¥500. Open 10:00 am to 3:45 pm, closed Tuesdays (open if a national holiday).
Tomb of Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada and wife Go (Ogo). The left sign indicates “Ogo” and right sign says, “Hidetada.”
Grave of Imperial Princess Kazunomiya (wife of Shogun Iemochi) who wanted to be next to her husband. 静寛院和宮

Shogun fans will have to see Zojoji’s Mausoleum of Tokugawa Shoguns (徳川将軍家墓所). It’s behind the Daiden Hall and there’s a small admission fee. The Mausoleum has the tombs of six Tokugawa Shoguns (the 2nd shogun Hidetada, 6th shogun Ienobu, 7th shogun Ietsugu, 9th shogun Ieshige, 12th shogun Ieyoshi, and 14th shogun Iemochi), Imperial Princess Kazunomiya (wife of Shogun Iemochi), and wives and children of shoguns. A total of 38 people are buried here. Photos of all the Tokugawa tombs:

Priest procession for Setsubun on Feb. 3.
Setsubun bean throwing (mame-maki) on Feb. 3 at Zojoji Temple. 節分追儺式
For Setsubun at Zojoji, snagged soybeans and mochi.

On Feb. 3, Zojoji Temple holds the annual Setsubun festival when celebrities throw lucky beans to the crowd. It starts before noon with a procession of Buddhist priests going to the main hall. Then from an elevated platform in front of the Daiden Hall, celebrities throw beans at the huge crowd trying to catch the beans. Lots of fun and laughs. But don’t ever try to pick beans on the ground. It’s dangerous because people can knock you over as they jostle for the flying beans.

From late March to early April, enjoy the cherry blossoms around the temple. Zojoji has a number of other buildings.

Rebuilt in 2011, Ankokuden Hall houses a hidden Amida Buddha statue revered by Tokugawa Ieyasu for victory in battle and warding off disasters and misfortunes.
Inside Ankokuden Hall,next to Daiden Hall.
Columbarium built in 1933. One of the few structures that was not destroyed during World War II. 大納骨堂 (舎利殿)
Koshoden (光摂殿) is a lecture hall and seminary for “cleansing soul and fostering the vigor to live” as we face the 21st century. The coffered ceiling of the large hall has beautiful paintings of flowering plants, donated by 120 pious Japanese artists.
Kyozo Storehouse (経蔵) for sutra texts. Originally built in 1613 with the financial aid of Tokugawa Ieyasu and renovated and relocated here in 1800. It has an octagonal-shaped with revolving bookshelves in the center.
Taitoku-in Somon Gate is Taitoku-in Mausoleum’s only structure to have survived. Now at the entrance of The Prince Park Tower Tokyo. 台徳院霊廟惣門
Tokyo Tower as seen from Shiba Park.

If you have time, also visit nearby Tokyo Tower built in 1958. Although it is no longer the tallest structure in Tokyo, it still gives great bird’s eye views of Tokyo. Adjacent Shiba Park is also pretty in spring with cherry blossoms and views of Tokyo Tower.

Zojoji is a short walk from JR Hamamatsu-cho Station and three subway stations: Daimon, Onarimon, and Shiba Koen.

More Zojoji photos:

*This article is an expanded version of my article published in via magazine, the onboard magazine of the Airport Limousine bus in the Tokyo area and lobby magazine at all branches of Mizuho Bank in Japan.

Other Tokyo Temple articles:

Koganji Temple, Sugamo (Winter 2019)

Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple (Autumn 2018)

Asakusa Sensoji Temple (Summer 2018)

Zojoji Temple (Spring 2018)

Halloween in Shibuya, Tokyo


Happy Halloween in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan’s massive costume street gathering on Oct. 31, 2016. Saw it for the first time from about 9 pm to 10:30 pm. Costumers and cosplayers of all kinds gathered in Shibuya for three nights in a row since Sat. night on the 29th. Last night was the largest gathering despite Halloween falling on a weekday this year.

Japan is the world’s undisputed Cosplay Super Power. Where the word “cosplay” was invented in the 1990s. Combine that with the “kawaii culture” and you create a street photographer’s paradise.

News reports this year have indicated that Halloween in Japan is fast becoming a major seasonal/commercial event, on par with Valentine’s Day (when Japanese chocolate makers make most of their annual sales). Halloween merchandise has been taking off in Japan.

Good, clean fun for everyone. There must’ve been at least 200,000 people at least. The entire Hachiko (dog) plaza was full of people. Ironically, nobody said “trick or treat” and I didn’t see anyone giving out Halloween candy. (No one carried candy bags either.) Japan invents its own Halloween (and Valentine’s Day).




For the first time this year, the police wisely closed off a few major roads around Shibuya Station for Halloween. Even then, the road to 109 and Dogenzaka were filled with people. I can’t imagine how crowded the sidewalks must’ve been until last year when they didn’t do this.

I’m really glad that the police are being very cooperative by closing the roads to traffic. Usually, the police kill off such street culture events due to snarled traffic and complaints about the noise, etc. People in Akihabara still cannot stage street performances when the roads are closed to traffic (hokoten) on weekends. But Shibuya is very welcoming of these costumers. Hopefully, they didn’t litter the streets as much as before.






The main attraction for these costumers is that they meet other costumers and take photos together. Great way to meet people (and ask for phone numbers).


Halloween in Shibuya is now a major tourist attraction in Tokyo. Lots of tourists posed with willing costumers. Nothing like this happens on Valentine’s Day nor Christmas. I have no doubt that this event will start attracting major celebrities. Think Lady Gaga, etc. Gonna get even more crazy.




You see all these weird costume collaborations. Captain America and China girls. They just get together spontaneously.


This all-night Halloween event is becoming Tokyo’s rare venue for a vibrant youth street culture. We should have more street events like this. I haven’t seen such a massive street event in Japan in a long time. There’s no organizer, no sponsors, no set event time, but it still happens. Just a spontaneous, massive street gathering. Unbelievable.

More photos here.

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