Published: December 4th 2008November 28th 2008
Senso-ji Temple (Asakusa Kannon) - Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
After exploring Ameyoko Market, I walked about a block to Senso-ji Temple (金龍山浅草寺, Kinryū-zan Sensō-ji). It is one of Tokyo's oldest and most revered Buddhist Temples. Leading up to Senso-ji Temple is a lively pedestrian street, Nakamise-dori, where worshippers can buy offerings for the shrine and tourists can find all kinds of useless junk as souvenirs. Adjacent to Senso-ji Temple is the Shinto shrine, Asakusa Shrine.
I came to Nakamise-dori by way of a side street so I had passed roughly the first half of the stalls lining it. While making my way up to the Temple, I passed by an incense burning station where people were waving smoke onto themselves. There was also some kind of station were people were washing their hands, face, and mouth. The temple itself wasn't anything special when I came up the steps and went inside. There was some kind of gold shrine in the back of the temple. The cathedrals in Europe were much more impressive in my opinion but the architecture was something new to me so that made this site interesting) Most people would throw some money into a collection bin, clap
Ahead is the Hozomon or "Treasure House Gate"
their hands three times (to scare away evil spiritis), pray, and then leave the temple. There were a couple individuals (not priests) praying inside an enclosed area which was closer to the shrine. I suppose they had some kind of special priveledges to be let in there.
Some information I pulled off of Wikipedia about Senso-ji Temple: History
The temple is dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon, also known as Guan Yin or the Goddess of Mercy. According to legend, a statue of the Kannon was found in the Sumida River in 628 by two fishermen, the brothers Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari. The chief of their village, Hajino Nakamoto, recognized the sanctity of the statue and enshrined it by remodeling his own house into a small temple in Asakusa, so that the villagers could worship the Kannon. The first temple was built on the site in 645, which makes it the oldest temple in Tokyo. The blessings of the Kannon gradually received a high reputation throughout Japan, and people near and far flocked to Asakusa to venerate the statue. During World War II, the temple was bombed and for the most part destroyed. It was rebuilt later and is
a symbol of rebirth and peace to the Japanese people. In the courtyard there is a tree that was hit by a bomb in the air raids, it had regrown in the husk of the old tree and is a similar symbol to the temple itself (I never saw this tree and if I did I had no idea of its significance). Temple Grounds
Senso-ji is the focus of Tokyo's largest and most popular matsuri (Shinto festival), Sanja Matsuri. This takes place over 3-4 days in late spring, and sees the surrounding streets closed to traffic from dawn until late evening. Pilgrims and tourists flocking to Senso-ji have shopped at the small stores here for centuries. Dominating the entrance to the temple is the Kaminarimon or "Thunder Gate". This imposing Buddhist structure features a massive paper lantern dramatically painted in vivid red-and-black tones to suggest thunderclouds and lightning. Beyond the Kaminarimon is Nakamise-dori with its shops, followed by the Hozomon or "Treasure House Gate" which provides the entrance to the inner complex. Within the precincts stand a stately five-story pagoda and the main hall, devoted to Kannon Bosatsu.
Many tourists, both Japanese and from abroad, visit Senso-ji every
year. Catering to the visiting crowds, the surrounding area has many traditional shops and eating places that feature traditional dishes (hand-made noodles, sushi, tempura, etc.). Nakamise-Dori, the street leading from the Thunder Gate to the temple itself, is lined with small shops selling souvenirs ranging from fans, ukiyo-e (woodblock prints), kimono and other robes, Buddhist scrolls, traditional sweets, to Godzilla toys, t-shirts, and cell-phone straps. These shops themselves are part of a living tradition of selling to pilgrims who walked to Senso-ji.
Within the temple itself, and also at many places on its approach, there are omikuji stalls. For a suggested donation of 100 yen, visitors may consult the oracle and divine answers to their questions. Querents shake labelled sticks from enclosed metal containers and read the corresponding answers they retrieve from one of 100 possible drawers (these metal containers make lots of noise and it's a bit startling when you walk past and don't expect someone to start shaking one).
Within the temple is a quiet contemplative garden kept in the distinctive Japanese style (never saw that...).
Nakamise-dori is a street on the approach to the temple. It is to have come about in the early
Senso-ji Temple in background
18th century. Neighbors of Sens¨-ji were allowed to set up shops on the approach to the temple. In May of 1885 the government of Tokyo ordered all shop owners to leave. In December of that same year the area was reconstructed in Western-style brick. During the 1923 Great Kant¨ earthquake many of the shops were destroyed. They were rebuilt in 1925 using concrete, but destroyed again during the bombings of World War II. The length of the street is approximately 250 meters and contains around 89 shops.
More photos: http://s165.photobucket.com/albums/u53/kimdupak/Japan/Tokyo%20-%20Senso-ji%20Temple%20-%2028%20Nov%202008/
There are more photos below