You won't find many red lights larger than the enormous paper lantern at Taito Ward's Sensoji, or Asakusa Kannon Temple.

The Kaminari-mon (Thunder Gate) lantern, named after the entrance from which it hangs, has to be steadied by guy wires, not simply for the convenience of photographers, but also because at nearly 700 kg, a rogue wind could get this baby knocking the lights out of unsuspecting tourists.

Eastern Taito Ward will floor you nonetheless; tourists and locals love it. On any given day, the Nakamise, an arcade of more than 90 shops leading up to the temple, is packed. The air is seasoned with grilled rice crackers, ningyo-yaki (hot buns filled with bean paste), and temple incense, and many of the establishments — some more than a century old — offer unique merchandise. Bangasa (oil-paper umbrellas), paper and silk fans, hair ornaments and yukata (summer kimono) represent the basic souvenir fare, but unusual specialty shops include Hyotan-ya, which stocks accessories for shamisen, a plucked, three-stringed instrument, and Komachi Hair, which features elaborate wigs of synthetic or human hair in updos or shimadamage.