Asakusa it certainly is. And a real geisha she most certainly isn’t. But what’s similarly certain is that the sight of her is still very striking.
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The popular tourist trap of Asakusa is an interesting area to visit. On the one hand there is the famous Senso-ji Temple, along with all the shops selling tat that go with such places. Basically a fun and somewhat cultural spot to meet friends and take a few photos.
But Asakusa is also surrounded by some of Tokyo’s less well-to-do districts, giving it another, very different dimension. One that some people take note of, and others choose to ignore, but either way it’s always there, on the fringes.
Built in the late 1800s — becoming the capital’s first western-style bar — the boozer has lived up to its no-nonsense image by somehow surviving the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, and then the devastating bombing raids of World War II.
Yet despite this history, and the establishment’s staunchly working class attitude in a supposedly middle class society, what really makes Kamiya Bar special are its patrons — plus the practice of having to sit wherever, and with whoever, one can find a space. A system that makes for continually different experiences, with continually interesting characters.
A lovely Asakusa sight, on a lousy rainy season afternoon.
Tokyo perpetually throws up contrasts, including equally contrasting people. What is unusual, however, are said people openly conversing on the street. A situation so clearly awkward that it becomes immediately obvious why it isn’t more common.
Tokyo’s subway system is as clean and efficient as its highly praised cousin above ground. So much so in fact that it results in a rather sterile, characterless environment. One invariably made even more tedious by painfully long walks down practically indistinguishable passageways.
This exit in Asakusa, on the other hand, is arguably the exception to the rule. Yes, it smells. Plus its crumbling walls aren’t exactly appealing. But all together it’s a combination that arguably gives it something that the rest of the network is crying out for — a bit of character.