As you have noticed in my recent articles tourism has become a hot topic in Japan. I believe for this sector the marketing efforts of the local businesses have not reached the global audience effectively, so consequently some people are stepping up privately. In this week’s interview I would like to introduce Junichi Sagashima, who has become very active in the promotion of Asakusa – a historical part of Tokyo – although he is not even born there.
Sibylle Ito: Why is Asakusa so important for you? What is your connection with Asakusa?
Junichi Sagishima: I have explored the area around Asakusa since I and my family moved nearby about 7 years ago. Asakusa is very interesting for me. There are a lot of places to see, shops to do explore and restaurants to eat.
I am a curious guy. So, I have gotten a bit of knowledge about Asakusa. For example, did you know the name of “Kaminari-mon (雷門)” is not the official name? “Fu-rai-jin-mon (風雷神門)” is the official name, because this gate has two statues of god – one is the god of wind named “Fu-jin (風神)” and the other one is the god of thunder named “Rai-jin (雷神)”. The abbreviated name
“Kaminari-mon” is easy to remember, so maybe Fu-jin feels a little lonely.
Anyway, I love Asakusa. This is a reason why Asakusa is so important for me!
SI: I think for most tourists to Tokyo Sensoji is on the must see list. What would you recommend as the not yet known spot in Asakusa for first time Japan visitors?
JS: It depends on their available time. Asakusa has a lot of places to see. So, I strongly recommend visitors to spend at least 3 hours! No matter what, you have to make time for a stroll on “Nakamise-street” from “Kaminari-mon” to “Senso-ji”. There are many small shops. You can find delicious sweets, beautiful kimonos and cool samurai-swords. My favorite place is a traditional sweet shop named “Asakusa Kokonoe”. They sell a several types of “Age-manju”, which is a fried sweet bun. This shop is very close to “Senso-ji”. Please check it out!
After visiting “Senso-ji”, explore other streets as well. For example, if you go to the east, you can go to “Amuse Museum”. If you go back to the south from there, you can find some great shops like “Fuji-ya”, “Bengara” and “Kiryu-ya”. Especially, there is a unique and funny pictorial quiz in front of “Bengara”. Let’s find it and ask someone – what does it mean? It is an example of humor during Edo-period.
SI: How important is Asakusa within Tokyo/Japan from a business perspective?
JS: Japanese government has focused on the tourist industry so far. In this perspective, Asakusa is very important. Over 20 millions people come to Asakusa every year. It means about 55 thousands people come to Asakusa each day. How to increase visitors? How to increase the revenues of one visitor? It is a common issue not only for Asakusa, but as well Tokyo and Japan.
Definitely good news is the “Tokyo Sky Tree”. This is the name of the new tower, which will become 634 meters by December 2011. This tower is being constructed near Asakusa. Many people are coming to see it. Asakusa should take leverage of this opportunity to increase visitors and consequently revenues.
SI: What do you think is necessary to be done to attract more young people to Asakusa?
JS: Maybe many people think Asakusa is traditional site-seeing area. But the number of new shops and restaurants which focus on young people are increasing. For example, “Amuse Museum” has a good bar for them. At the same time, traditional restaurants are preparing new items and menus for the younger generation. As a result, some books have started to introduce these shops to young people as “New Asakusa” style. “Tokyo Sky Tree” is another attraction for younger people to come to Asakusa. I think we should make special maps for targeted consumers. It will be helpful for them while walking around.
SI: Please continue the following sentence: Asakusa is for me…
JS: Asakusa is for me my second hometown. I was not born in Asakusa, but I would like to contribute to the growth of Asakusa. So, I have made a fun page named “We Love ASAKUSA!” on facebook. Asakusa has some portal sites like http://www.tokyo-asakusa.com, but it is only in Japanese. In general on the internet information about Asakusa in English is very limited. I decided to give it a try.
I think facebook is the best tool to communicate with each other globally. In Japan, facebook is not yet so popular, but there are over 500 millions users all over the world. I would like to create with this fun page a bridge between Asakusa and non-Japanese people. I am posting some articles on what is happening in Asakusa. Use this fun page to post, too. Please upload your photos taken in Asakusa if you have any pictures. Many photos and many smiles let us know what Asakusa in reality is. If you don’t have photos taken in Asakusa, do make a plan to visit Asakusa! I and local people are looking forward to meet you there!
Thank you so much Sagishima san! For sure I can feel your energy and I have no choice, but to go to Asakusa again. Honestly, I would have never expected 55,000 visitors per day, because Asakusa did not seem crowded to me. For sure I am truly impressed about your drive and passion for Asakusa and hope your site about Asakusa (http://bit.ly/wl_asakusa) will become a global success.
If you want to catch him on twitter: jsagi1975 or then on linkedIN: Sagishima Junichi.
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)