114 Travel | Tokyo A couple in traditional wedding attire take a morning rickshaw ride along Denboin-dōri. The view from Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Centre across the Sumida to Tokyo Sky Tree. There are eateries everywhere too: some of the best food in the city can be found here – at some of the tastiest prices. vehicle’) was a relatively novel contraption, patented by some local fellows who went on to manufacture tens of thousands of them for the local market and eventually for export across Asia. Today there are just a few hundred remaining in all Japan, meaning that a puller can do something his 19th-century counterparts rarely had the opportunity to enjoy: find an open stretch of Asakusa back lane in which to switch from a gentle trot to a full hurtle – and elicit some excited squeals from the white-knuckled passengers. No wonder shafu are also known as ‘rickshaw runners’. The ride weaves through alleys and lanes, passing countless little stores selling traditional kimono and straw slippers, handmade horsehair toothbrushes, luxurious mochi sweets, photos of bygone Asakusa, and Sensō-ji Temple snow globes. There are eateries everywhere too: some of the best food in the city can be found here – at some of the tastiest prices. There’s a snaking queue of grilled-eel enthusiasts outside Koyanagi on Asakusachuo-dōri (as well as the unagi, they want its yummy toriju chicken on rice and tamagoyaki egg rolls). A little north on Hoppy-dōri, izakaya café-bars fill the street with the aromas of freshly grilled snacks called kushikatsu and tempting stews using chicken gizzard or melt-in-the-mouth beef skirt, while over near the Sumida River, redcheeked punters stumble out of Kamiya Bar. It’s a friendly Japanese–Western-style joint that opened over 130 years ago, where they’re still plying their signature alcoholic concoction known as denki-bran or ‘electric brandy’. No wonder some of the punters look a little light-headed… As the sun goes down the stalls along Nakamise-dōri start to close. There are still clusters of people around Hōzōmon and, even though the main hall closed at 5pm, a long line of devotees (they’ve come straight from the office) leads up to bolted temple doors and an offertory chest. Thrown donations clatter into the chest as queuers pay their respects to the unseen Kannon Bodhisattva. At the same time, the sun throws its last rays over the temple and the five-tiered pagoda. It’s about then that the lights of nearby restaurants and izakaya, traditional theatres and ryokan start to burn brighter. It has happened like that for hundreds of years here, in this place where people eat, sleep and pray.