Barry Joshua Grisdale eats an "age-manju" snack and rides in a rickshaw around Tokyo’s Sensoji temple. (The Asahi Shimbun)

Editor’s note: The theme of Inclusive Tokyo is to explore the metropolis from the viewpoint of wheelchair users and people with disabilities. Tourism officials, with their sights set on the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and an anticipated influx of foreign visitors, are working to make public transportation and popular destinations more accessible. In this series, Barry Joshua Grisdale, a 39-year-old Tokyo resident who uses a wheelchair, navigates iconic locations to assess progress in creating a barrier-free environment.


No visit to Tokyo is complete without a trip to Asakusa's iconic Sensoji temple in the capital’s Taito Ward, says Canadian-born Barry Joshua Grisdale. It is just one of many must-see destinations.

First, Grisdale, who prefers to be referred to as Josh, stopped at Asakusa Kokonoe to purchase his favorite snack, a sweet bean bun called "age-manju."

The store is among 89 shops selling souvenirs and other items that line Nakamise-dori, the bustling street leading to the temple’s main hall.

The confectionery makes 11 kinds of freshly-fried sweet buns, with each ingredient labeled in English.

Store staff are accustomed to a rapid influx of foreign visitors to the area.

“English, Chinese, Korean and Spanish. I can speak every foreign language, albeit somewhat brokenly,” said staff member Sakiko Iwasa.

Iwasa, 53, said she has also been studying sign language to serve hearing-impaired customers.

Josh selected “koshian” (strained bean paste), the most popular age-manju at the store.

Staff handed the snack for Josh, making sure he could clasp it in his hands easily to eat.

After touring the temple complex, Josh visited Jidaiya, a "jinrikisha" rickshaw operator located about five minutes away by wheelchair from the main Kaminarimon gate.

The company offers rickshaws equipped with an access ramp so wheelchair users like Josh can board the contraptions.

The company charges an additional 8,000 yen ($73) to accommodate wheelchair users, regardless of the number of passengers.

“I feel safe because they fasten my seat belt tight,” Josh said.

“It is fun to whiz around and see things at a higher level than a wheelchair while listening to a tanned jinrikisha runner point out the tourist sites," he said.


Barry Joshua Grisdale was born in Toronto in 1981. He fell ill shortly after birth and has a remaining disability that impedes movement of his arms and legs. He has used a wheelchair since he was 4 years old.

At the age of 19, Josh visited Japan with his father for the first time. He was particularly touched when a member of staff at a train station waited to guide him to the entrance. He felt Japan was “barrier-free at heart.”

Josh moved to Japan in summer 2007, and obtained Japanese citizenship in 2016. He currently works at a care facility in Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward. He runs a website called Accessible Japan that provides sightseeing information for foreign nationals with disabilities.