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
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 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
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 - 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
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.
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 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
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.
Offer your prayers in the main temple hall at the Sensoji Temple
Prayer flags flutter in the gentle breeze creating a gentle symphony,
... perhaps enjoying his day out in peace and solitude,
Just like me...
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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).
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