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Part of the Tokyo's Best Stuff series

Asakusa is one of the oldest parts of Tokyo being home to the venerated Senso-ji temple and many traditional artisans and craftspeople. It's also home to the Sumiyoshi-kai Yakuza gang.

Philippe Starck's Flamme d'Or Sky Room Bar

A bar at the Starck-designed Asahi Super Dry Building is a great place for a beer. The building itself is extraordinary, being a shiny silver box with an enormous golden turd on the roof, brightly illuminated by the sun during the day, and floodlights at night. At the Asakusa station, walk 3 minutes west over the Azuma-bashi bridge (it's the one next to the waterbus station), and look up for the magnificent shining turd. Take the elevator to the 21st floor and then the suspended escalator to the 22F. Open from 1000-2100 daily. Do yourself a favour and have a beer here at sunset -- the view across Asakusa towards Ueno and south to Tokyo Station is absolutely classic, filled with neon and blaze. You can really get a feel for the people that populate this megaopolis from this high point, nursing a ice-cold Super Dry.

The Japan Toys Museum

Tsukuda Group Building 9F, 1-36-10 Hashiba, Taito-ku. Entrance costs ¥200 (in '99). Great for toy geeks.

Suijo Water Bus

Provides cheap cruises from Azuma-bashi (the bridge near the station) to Hinode Pier in Hamamatsucho. The commuter cruise lasts over a half hour and costs ¥560 (in '99). You can change ferries at Hamamatsucho to the spectacular Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba. The ferry ride through Tokyo Bay, under the myriad bridges to the George Jetson-like Odaiba island is a must-do. It's so easy to forget that Tokyo is a city on a busy working bay, and this is the cheapest way I know to get some seaspray in your face in this most exciting of cities. Load your camera with plenty of film or flash memory and get a seat at the back. Daytime affords the best opportunities for photography, but a night cruise is also recommended, with neon signage festooning every building on both banks of the Sumida.

Nakamise-dori Markets

1 Asakusa (4 short blocks east of Asakusa station) is a maze of a market, selling many traditional gifts and souvenirs, as well as the ubiquitous electronics and clothing. A great place to get some reasonably inexpensive gifts -- look out for sandals, fans, and maneki-neko charms of all sizes and prices.

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