Made up of the Sensoji Temple and Nakamise shopping street, Asakusa is a wonderful place to walk around just to soak in its festive atmosphere. The Hubs thinks the place is a little touristy but I find the giant lanterns, big incense burners and fortune telling all quite quaint. I especially like Nakamise street for its colourful knick knacks and yummy snacks – it’s like a big Japanese pasar malam.
Asakusa was our first stop just after we landed because it so happened to be Setsubun – a Japanese traditional holiday that marks the beginning of spring. What happens during Setsubun is a bean-throwing ceremony also known as Mamemaki to drive away evil and ill health. Usually, the head of the household will stand at the doorway of the house, wearing an oni (demon) mask while the rest of the household members throw soy beans at the oni, and shout “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” . It basically means “Out with the demons! In with the luck!". Anyhoo, Mamemaki also takes place at Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines throughout Japan where the ceremony is performed by celebrities and well-known personalities.
Mamemaki at Asakusa consisted of a procession along Nakamise to the Sensoji Temple where a wooden platform had been erected. After that, it just started raining soy beans! Beans were thrown at the crowd who were excitedly trying to catch them with plastic bags and their hats, with everyone shouting what sounded like "Huat ah!". I know, so very Singaporean of us 🙂 Overall a fun experience and a great way to usher in the lunar new year.
From Tokyo Station
Take the JR Yamanote Line to Kanda Station (2 minutes, 130 Yen) and transfer to the Ginza Subway Line for Asakusa (10 minutes, 160 Yen).
From Shinjuku Station
Take the orange JR Chuo Line to Kanda Station (10 minutes, 160 Yen) and transfer to the Ginza Subway Line for Asakusa (10 minutes, 160 Yen).