Japan Tokyo Travel

Tokyo Tribute: The Gentleman from Asakusa

For the first time visitor to Tokyo, the experience can be a little daunting. The city moves at a frenetic pace, overcrowding can induce a sense of claustrophobia, and Japanese signs without translation can make a foreigner feel like a lab rat trying to navigate their way out of the JR subway maze.

Little wonder there is a code of acknowledgement amongst foreigners in Japan. Brief eye contact is made or a quiet nod is exchanged when they pass one another in the street.

Tokyo Asakusa
Asahi Beer Building, Asakusa

In contrast, the Japanese people appear to move around with an exceptionally calm demeanour. Their politeness almost exudes a sense of serenity. Curious about foreigners yet maintaining a little distance, they openly bow in lifts or if you hold a door open for them. Look a little lost or hold an open map, and someone offers assistance, even with limited English.

In a bustling city with soaring buildings and futuristic landmarks, you can find contrast in an old part of town. In Asakusa, (pronounced a-sak-sa), you get the feeling that it belongs to another century with the Asakusa shrine and pagoda, were it not for the imposing Asahi Beer building with the yellow flame near the Sumida River.

Tokyo Asakusa

Tokyo Asakusa

An afternoon of sightseeing in the stifling heat ends with a search for a cold beer. We spot a local pub and shuffle our swollen feet. An elderly gentleman is about to exit the pub just as we are entering. Out of politeness, I wait for him to step out before seeking refuge into the air-conditioned comfort. He steps outside the door, holds it open for me and gestures quietly with his hand. I think he is ushering us in. I drop my gaze to his hand and see him raise a folded fan. He fans it twice in front of his face to show me what it is, offers a demure smile then hands it to me as a gift.

It is right at this moment that I experience the soul of Tokyo.

Tokyo Asakusa

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.


  • Hi Corinne!
    Asakusa is indeed amazing. When I lived in Japan, I went their each year to watch the Sumidagawa Fireworks display (2 hours long). It takes place in July. Also, you can take a river cruise on a sunny afternoon down the Sumida River. Oh, and I should mention that there’s a “plastic food” shopping arcade where you can browse and even purchase fake sushi and soba just like you see all over Tokyo– a kooky tourist area, indeed. There’s just so much to do in that neighborhood!
    Love your photos, too. Thanks for this lovely post!

    • Hi Karen and welcome 🙂 You’re lucky to have lived in Japan! Such experiences always stay with you. Thank you for your visit and kind words.

  • Great story, Corinne! We found kindness in the people of Japan too. One instance that comes to mind quickly was when we were trying to figure out which train we needed to get on, a young woman approached us with a big smile, eager to assist us.

    • We had a similar thing happen to us at a train station, and the guy even escorted us to the right platform. Incredible considering we couldn’t communicate properly!

  • Really enjoyed your post. Most enlightening and great photos, too. Just discovered your great site: love the name!