Top 5 Things to Eat When Visiting Asakusa
Asakusa is the perfect place to visit if you want to learn about Japanese tradition and history; it offers everything from strolling around the premises of the colorful Sensoji Temple—Tokyo’s oldest—in a rental kimono to experiencing first hand the roots of Japanese comedy at the Asakusa Engei Hall. A day in this bustling area is a guaranteed adventure, but what’s a weary explorer to eat after a long day of trekking through Tokyo’s cultural gems? Here’s a list of the top 5 foods anyone visiting Asakusa must try.
Melon Pan at Kagetsudo
Melon pan, or melon bread, is one of Japan’s most decadent desserts. It’s a bun shaped to resemble a melon, and it tastes like an oversized butter cookie—but while crispy on the outside, the inside has a soft and fluffy texture that melts in your mouth. Kagetsudo in Asakusa takes a step further and offers jumbo melon pan, bigger than the average bun for maximum impact. Tip: in Japan it’s considered impolite to eat while walking around, so make sure to eat it in the shop or ask for omochikaeri (takeaway).
Stir-Fried Ice Cream at Ice Tokyo
Asakusa is full of color and aesthetics, making it the perfect place to stop for an intricately constructed dessert that looks like an edible work of art. A serving of Ice Tokyo’s stir-fried ice cream should do the trick. This ice cream is made by pouring a milky base onto a metal pan chilled to below freezing temperature and then slowly stirring it until frozen. It’s then curled into ice cream rolls and topped with sweets and fruits—there’s a variety of options on the menu to choose from. This confection might take a while to make, but witnessing the whole process is a treat in and of itself.
Japan’s Richest Matcha Ice Cream at Suzukien
Green tea was originally an essential drink for weary monks. Fast forward to our day and age, and matcha—powdered green tea—is now an ice cream flavor no visit to Japan is complete without. But not all matcha ice creams were made equal; Suzukien in Asakusa offers seven of the darkest, richest versions of the green and creamy treat in all of Tokyo, each one made with a different concentration of the powder—from mild and sweet to rich, dark and slightly bitter. A must for anyone who loves green tea.
Potato Desserts at Funawa
Japanese sweets are famous for using natural ingredients with only the gentlest added flavors. One of Asakusa’s go-to stops for traditional sweets is Funawa, where along some more common local desserts, you’ll find dishes based on a rather surprising ingredient: potatoes. Funawa’s flag item is the potato yokan, a pasty dessert based on just the natural sweetness of the tuber. Other options include ningyoyaki—small cakes made in an iron mold and filled with a sweet paste (in Funawa’s case, potato based filling is available), sweet satsuma potato baked with butter, no-fry crisps and more.
Monjayaki at Rokumonsen
Monjayaki is grilled batter mixed with an assortment of vegetables, seafood and meat, popular in the Kanto area and prevalent in Asakusa. Think okonomiyaki, but gooier—it never looks good in pictures, but more than makes up for it in flavor. The best part? You get to fry it yourself and eat it right off the pan with a tiny spatula. My recommended monja stop is Rokumonsen. They have two branches in the area, both with a friendly staff that will gladly come to the rescue in case you need a helping hand while diving into one of Japan’s most delicious traditions.