Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sensoji Temple, Asakusa - Tokyo

Day 2: SENSOJI TEMPLE, ASAKUSA IN TOKYO - Nakamise dori Shopping Arcade, Asakusa - Sumida River Cruise - Hibiya Garden - Imperial Palace and Gardens - Tokyo Tower

Sensoji temple, Asakusa in Tokyo

Old and ancient structures tend to have a certain charismatic pull associated with them. They safeguard behind their walls ancient mythical legends and stories that get more powerful and magnetic with time. The older the place gets, the history becomes more daunting and the pull, even stronger. Even the things associated with them come to be celebrated and treasured.

One prime example that fits in, in this category is the Sensoji temple in Asakusa district - Tokyo’s oldest and one of the most popular temples living since ages and I was happy to start my tour in Tokyo from this sacred place.

The entire temple is spread in a huge compound consisting of two gates, a row of colorful shops, a main temple hall and a five storied pagoda and is interesting right from the word go! First you encounter the Kaminarimon or the Thunder Gate, the outer gate of Sensoji Temple flanked by two gate protector Gods on either sides – Fujin, the God of wind and Raijin, the God of thunder.

The Kaminarimon Gate, Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
The Kaminarimon Gate, Sensoji Temple, Tokyo

However, the most important point of attraction here is the huge red and black colored lantern which hangs from the centre of the gate. The lantern together with the imposing gate is recognized as the symbol not only for Asakusa but for the entire of Tokyo.

The red colored lantern at the Kaminarimon Gate, Sensoji Temple, Asakusa- Tokyo
The red colored lantern at the Kaminarimon Gate

The bottom of the red colored lantern at the Kaminarimon Gate, Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
The bottom part of the lantern

Pass through the gate and a row of around 90 shops neatly lined up come in the scene called the Nakamise dori shopping arcade. Spanning around 200 mtrs and believed to be having a history dating several centuries back, you will find all kinds of colorful trinkets and souvenirs like Japanese fans, key chains, hats, purses on display here.

The Nakamise dori shopping arcade at the Sensoji Temple complex, Tokyo
The Nakamise dori shopping arcade

Get past the shops and you come to the second gate of the temple – The Hozomon gate – not as historic and prominent as the outer Kaminarimon gate but quite similar in looks and attractive nevertheless.

The Hozomon Gate at the Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
The Hozomon Gate - the inner gate

Enter the gate and you enter a sacred space. Here stand the main temple hall and a five storied pagoda besides the washing area and the smoke bowl of health.

The Main temple hall at the Sensoji Temple, Asakusa- Tokyo
The main temple hall

The five storied pagoda at the Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
The five storied pagoda at the Sensoji Temple

Before entering the main hall, you wash your hands in a specified pattern, and then take in the smoke from the bowl which grants you good health before proceeding to the main temple hall.

Smoke health bowl at the Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
Fan some smoke onto yourself from the smoke health bowl

The main temple hall is wooden and spacious with the ceiling covered in beautiful paintings and murals.

Colorful ceilings at the Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
Colorful ceiling in the main temple hall

In the centre of the hall is the main altar covered by a glass pane. I try searching for the main deity Goddess bodhisattva Kannon – the Goddess of mercy that was mystically discovered and fished out by the two fishermen to be later installed here. But I learn that it lies hidden today and is not open for public display.

A painting in the complex depicts the history of the Sensoji Temple

The altar in the main hall at the Sensoji Temple, Asakusa- Tokyo
The altar in the main hall

I offer my prayers by doing what the locals do. Clap my hands twice, bow twice, put money in the treasure box, and clap once again. And then, I stand still with my eyes closed. It’s quiet and the feeling is beautiful.

The main temple hall at the Sensoji temple, Asakusa, Tokyo

Offer your prayers in the main temple hall at the Sensoji Temple

Outside the hall, out in the compound... a statue of serene Buddha meditates in the lap of nature,

A statue of Buddha in the Sensoji Temple premises, Asakusa - Tokyo

Prayer flags flutter in the gentle breeze creating a gentle symphony,

A temple in the Sensoji temple compound

And a lone pigeon meanders around...

A pigeon wandering aimlessly in the sensoji temple p

... perhaps enjoying his day out in peace and solitude,

Just like me...

Fast Facts and Information for Travelers -

Temple fees: Free.
Timings: 6 am - 5 pm (6.30 am October-March). However, the shops in the Nakamise shopping arcade open at around 8.00 - 8.30 am.
Temple is open: 365 days in a year.
Photograhy: Is allowed.
Nearest Subway Station: Around 5 min. walk from Asakusa Subway Station on Ginza line (Exit 1).

Previous Posts from the Japan Trip -

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  1. lovely clicks...keep'em coming...

  2. More superb captures from Japan, Arti!! What a great trip!! Thanks again for taking us along!!

  3. @Arti Great to read another post of your yatra.Great to know about the Temple, Thanks for the beautiful photographs.

  4. I like touring Japan with you Arti. I see you learned much from your visit.

  5. So interesting -- I have seen replicas of that lantern many times, had no idea that there was one REAL one.....beautiful tour thank you. It's also especially interesting about the prayer flags. Some Native American tribes have versions of those too.

  6. Great shots. I always like seeing the architecture of Japan.

  7. Arti, It seemed that I was a part of entourage visiting the place! Thanks for taking on trip to Japan!

  8. Lovely virtual trip. The temple looks so clean and neat. Lantern is wonderful. I think every temple has temple guardians irrespective of region/ country

  9. The temple looks beautiful and colourful. Nice photos and description.

  10. Beautiful pictures with very informative and interesting write up...

  11. Nice virtual/visual treat...

    nice write up and beautiful photos


  12. What a fascinating place, and the temple is so gorgeous and grand.

    Thanks for visiting..

  13. beautiful painting
    like the statue

  14. Beautiful place. Usualy japan temple always look grey and cold. But this one is pretty coloufull :)

    Are they chant mantra too Arti?

  15. wow it seems we are visitng with you :) .. it sure looks like a beautiful place to be at


  16. wonderful pics! thanks for stopping by :)

  17. @Mareta The temples in Japan are often made up of wood, hence the greyish look, I think :) There were no loud chants or mantras inside the Sensoji temple but everyone kept to themselves and were quietly praying with folded hands.

  18. Having some problems commenting so I hope you don't end up with multiple postings.

    I was hoping you were going to include a temple or two, fascinating reading, and as always great photos.

  19. Actually I haven’t been to Asakusa and Sensoji Temple in person. Now you’re a good guide to me.


  20. I remember Asakusa from my trip to Tokyo in 2008, but you have provided information that I was not aware of. Thank you, Arti. At the shops, David bought a cake for his boss and cookies for his office staff.

  21. Enjoying with you the lovely yaatra.
    Beautiful Japani temple is pleasing the heart.


  22. So impressive Arti, and so different from the ones. you saw in Indis!

  23. Japan seems such a fascinating place. Well captured. Enjoyed the pictorial.

  24. hats off to you, you are very observant and could follow the practice of others in the temple, and beautiful pictures and narration as always. love traveling with you.

  25. What a gorgeous lantern. Beautiful!
    Wishing you a happy weekend!

  26. Lovely photos. Peaceful and serene.

  27. Beautiful pictures. Many years ago, we wandered there by accident and I remember the large lantern. Thanks for the memories.

  28. Excellent photographs. I was also keen to see where the deity is located. It is gratifying to note that photography is not prohibited as in many of our temples. Thank you for sharing.

  29. Did you hear of Hato Bus tour in Tokyo?
    It is a leading sightseeing bus service, offering diverse courses of Tokyo's attractions.
    Actually when I visited my daughter working in Tokyo several years ago, we took one day Hato Bus tour, which included Senso-ji, imperial palace and Tokyo Tower and some other places. It was convenient for starters. I remember Senso-ji was a very lively place.

    As someone says, you are attentive enough to respect other cultures. Well as far as I know, the way of offering prayers "two bows, two clapping your hands, say your prayers and bow again last" is done at shrines, not at temples. There is Senso Shrine there as well, so some people might mix the way.
    Come to think of it, it's the thought that counts, it doesn't matter how you offer prayers, right?
    Thank you Arti for Sensoji report.

    Cosmos Keiko

  30. I just loved the lantern and it is such a beautiful temple with great architecture and art work. Must be a beautiful day.:)

  31. Lovely place, cool pictures, amazed at the intricate details underneath the lantern...

  32. thank you for taking me there virtually...that lone pigeon shot is so always your words and photos brought happiness to this soul...blessed weekend :-)

  33. @ Yoko Even if you have not visited the place, I’m sure you will still make for a better guide than me. :) And then, since cosmos has visited the place... we will take her along.

    @cosmos Yes, I did hear of Hato tour bus and we even contemplated taking it at one time, but then decided against it and went ahead to explore the places on our own. In hindsight, now I somehow feel it was a nice decision since we could enjoy the subway train rides that way. But as you have said, we did take pointers about the places they had mentioned in their brochure and modeled our schedule accordingly.

    Ah, thanks for the heads up on the prayer ritual in the Sensoji temple and shrine. I was totally unaware of this bit. Many thanks for the correction, highly appreciated. And you are so right, at the end... it is really our thought that counts not the exact manner, how true that.

  34. I have been there once but I don't remember well except for Nakamise.
    The bottom of the lantern is interesting. Your watch of it is great.

  35. Beautiful pictures, looks like a wonderful place to visit. I especially enjoyed seeing the Buddha statue outside in the garden.

  36. Great post, Arti. I love visiting religious places when I travel. I was surprised to read that there were shops so close to the first temple.

  37. Love the shot you took from the bottom of the lantern. There is something to rituals and the feeling of peace that overcomes you when performing them. A lovely post.

  38. I have been fascinated by Japan ever since my friends went there on their honeymoon. I would so love to get there myself one day. I am sure it would be great.

  39. great shots Arti...
    thanks for liking my strawberry shake :-)
    so u enjoy the treat and i'm enjoying the trip(to Japan)
    bless u.


  40. beautiful pics .. waiting for more !

  41. Wow! A near perfect review of the temple and the culture. Great going Arti! Waiting for more from you end..

  42. Looks like it was a great trip. (^_^) Beautiful blog, congratulations.

  43. Exploring a new city can be very hectic, but that sounds like a very peaceful day of exploring. I look forward to making it to Japan someday.

  44. I love Budhist temples, there a something so serene about them. Thanks for sharing these pictures:)

  45. You do have an eye for detail Arti!

  46. You do have an eye for detail, Arti

  47. Very nice temple. I liked that mediating Buddha in the garden.

  48. Arti thanx for sharing these beautiful sights with us---it is amazing how the architecture of each country is typical & exclusive!

  49. ..another wonderful post with awesome pics and lovely narratives! Thank you Arti..enjoyed thoroughly:)

  50. Such wonderful description..felt as if I m practically viewing it and such gorgeous picture clips..The alter in the main hall attracted me more..lovely post Arti..Thanks for sharing..

  51. Thanks for sharing the amazing pic, Arti. Your narration makes the blog more interesting...
    I am late here this time.Wonder, how I missed this..

    Thank you!!

  52. Very interesting. It was nice to hear about the hand cleansing ritual. Beautiful traditions and beautiful traditional art and architecture.

    Keep them coming, can't seem to get enough of Japan.

  53. Hi Arti

    Writing a travellogue that does not get boring at all is an art and you seem to have got mastery over it! Excellent photos and descriptions....Will recommend your blog to anyone visiting Tokyo :)

  54. I loved the way you prayed there by clapping your hands.. It happens only in Japan? ;)
    Like all your Yatra posts, the visit to the temple is amazing with wonderful images to accompany it. Loved reading this.

  55. Lovely pictures and details Arti. Loved the pictures. Too good. Enjoy :)

  56. Loved the Lantern so huge and nice. Have heard about how people there in Japan follow Buddhism that holy smoke taking in is so Indian that we do after an Arti. Enjoying each and every post of yours :)

  57. Wonderful pictures! The hostel we stayed in was just a 3 minute walk from Senso-ji and we loved the Asakusa area. It was delightfully peaceful and quiet early in the morning (perfect for enjoying the garden and majestic Senso-ji), but then got so lively during the day. So many cute shops along the shopping arcade here!

  58. Beautiful clicks Arti!!! Looks like i need to plan a trip to Japan soon!!!

  59. Thanks for the wonderful virtual tour. Beautiful!

  60. Great blog of Tokyo. Going to Tokyo soon and these are certainly to help :-) i also have a travel blog at . Do take a visit if you are free.

  61. Hi, just came across your blog and loved it. Have been to Japan myself, and could identify well with the emotions you have expressed. Indeed, the country inspires one to pen down one's experiences. I have started one of my own. Would love to share with you.


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