Signs, signs: Asakusa rokku

I’m trying to get back into the blogging groove again so I’m digging up old photos and reminiscing the experiences that I may be inspired to write. So please indulge me for this week’s Signs meme.

Many years ago I was invited by a Japanese NGO to visit their country. After my official obligations were done, I stayed for three more days to get acquainted with Tokyo.

In my previous post, I mentioned about sightseeing and shopping at Demboin-dori, a shopping area in Asakusa. Having been amazed at the sights before me as I strolled along, and coupled with my faulty sense of direction, I got lost and ended up in the rokku (the sixth district) entertainment area, which was really a welcome eventuality.

Asakusa’s rokku, in its heydays, was  one of Tokyo’s prime entertainment districts before the war.  And even prior to that, between 1600s-1800s, it was said to be a known as a Yoshiwara, or the pleasure district. Sadly, it didn’t regain its popularity after the war ended.

At present, the rokku features attractions such as pachinko parlours, rakugo theatres (similar to a one-man stand-up comedy show), cinemas, and street performances.

Asakusa, Tokyo, Rokku
This is Asakusa’s rokku entertainment district.

Walking around the rokku, I could feel the post-war atmosphere. Actually, the whole Asakusa feels like old-world Japan. The advertising banners and signs for shops and shows are still traditional and some were noticeably garish.

The street cleaner had just finished his duties when I took this photo. The two “shelves” contained his cleaning brushes and is held together by a wooden stick.  He carried them on his shoulder as he went on to his next cleaning spot.  The rokku is a busy place but since I went there in the morning, the entertainment strip was still empty.

 

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Signs, signs: Remnants of Old Japan

In 2006, I was invited by the Japanese NGO ACCU-EE to visit their country and participate in a conference for Environmental Educators. After the 5-day event, I didn’t return to Cambodia right away. I stayed for three more days to experience Japan for the first time.

During my extended stay, I chose a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn)  in the historic Asakusa district of Tokyo. Not only that it is relatively inexpensive there (lots of ryokans, small hotels and and inexpensive hostels and dorms), but it is one of the few remaining places where you experience Tokyo of the olden days.

I went on a walking tour of  Asakusa alone. The weather was nice and cool, perfect for on-foot travel, and I wasn’t disappointed!

On my walks, I tried to avoid the huge crowd and walked the opposite direction. I found myself in Demboin-dori, a calmer, less-crowded street lined with amazing wooden shops.  I was told these traditional wooden shops (craft shops and restaurants) are centuries-old and was left as they were:

Signs Japanese traditional shops in Asakusa

Although I do not understand what’s written on them, I think the wooden signs and the exteriors are beautiful! And the interiors are even better.  As I was on a budget-trip, I restrained myself from getting some really great handmade Japanese souvenirs in one of these shops.

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