Legend says that “in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Senso-ji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon.”
The temple was completed in the year 645, making it Tokyo’s oldest temple. It should be noted, though, that Senso-ji was bombed and pretty much destroyed in World War II and had to be rebuilt later.
About 30 million people visit Senso-ji every year. I noticed a lot of people like us, pure tourists, but there were also a good number of worshipers. This is still a very significant temple for Buddhists.
Since this was my first temple visit, I didn’t know what to expect. Every time I saw something – the outer gate, the inner gate, a big lantern, some less significant hall – I thought, “That’s it!” I didn’t realize that a lot of these temples have very large grounds, many different buildings, and gates, and gardens.
Dallas at Kaminarimon Gate
After exiting the Asakusa Station, we walked maybe a block before coming across Kaminarimon Gate “Thunder Gate,” the outer gate to the temple (point A on the map above). This gate was destroyed and rebuilt several times since it was first constructed in 941. The current structure was built in 1960. The giant red chochin (lantern) that hangs from the gate is 13 feet tall, 11 feet around and weights 1,500 pounds! This gate is not only well known around Japan as a symbol of Senso-ji, but also of Asakusa, as a whole.
Nakamise Dori after walking through Kaminarimon Gate.
So many flavors of soft serve!! Vanilla, green tea, black sesame, chocolate, strawberry, ogura hokkaido (red bean?), custard pudding, vanilla and grean tea swirl, vanilla and chocolate swirl, vanilla and strawberry swirl, sakura (cherry blossom), rum raisin, grape, lemon, melon, blueberry yogurt, almond jelly, mango, cookies vanilla, chocolate and banana, tofu, mandarin orange, purple sweet potato, marron (chestnut), white peach.
Nakamise Dori, looking back at Kaminarimon Gate.
|Making senbei (rice crackers)!|
Fruity doughnut with red bean paste inside.
Shin-Nakamise (New Nakamise) is a perpendicular street to Nakamise Dori.
Spotted this kabuki display on a side street.
Looking back towards Nakamise Dori. There were tons of bicyclists in Asakusa.
View of Tokyo Skytree from Asakusa.
|Spotted some real sakura (cherry blossoms)!!|
After you walk through Kaminarimon Gate, there’s street called Nakamise Dori (dori = street). This street is lined with small shops selling everything from fans to woodblock prints to kimonos to sweets and snacks to tshirts, etc. It might seems kind of weird to have all of this stuff for sale on temple grounds, but these shops are actually part of an old tradition of selling to pilgrims to who walked to Senso-ji. There are 89 shops that line this 250 meter street! We didn’t know it at the time, but they say this is one of the best places in Tokyo to buy souvenirs.
Dallas at Hozomon Gate
Chochin at Hozomon Gate.
An orange tree on the Senso-ji temple grounds.
Beautiful statues in the garden.
Nakamise Dori stretches between the outer gate, Kaminarimon Gate, through to an inner gate, Hozomon Gate (point B on the map above). Nearby Hozomon Gate is a beautiful garden by Bentendo Hall (point L) where I took the photos of the statues.
Me in front of the five-storied pagoda.
The Five-Storied Pagoda (point D on the map above) was originally built in 942. It was destroyed and rebuilt man times. This current structure is from 1973.
Dallas getting his omikuji.
Hand washing fountain.
Standing in the entrance to the main gate, looking back at Hozomon Gate.
Finally to the main hall of Senso-ji (point C on the map above). I didn’t actually take any photos inside because I thought it would be disrespectful to the people there worshiping. The main hall building was destroyed in March 1945 in Tokyo air raids. In 1958 it was reconstructed. The walk up to the hall was very interesting. For a suggested donation of $100 yen ($1.00 USD), you can get your omikuji (fortune) by first shaking an octangular vessel. A stick comes out with a number on it and you match the number to the drawer with the same number. Open the drawer and pull out your fortune. There’s also an area for hand washing and purification with water. For a small fee you can purchase incense to burn. You’re supposed to waft the incense over your body for purification.
After visiting the Senso-ji main hall, we just started wandering around the outer grounds. I think these photos were taken nearby Yakushido Hall (point F on the map).
We stopped to take a break, but I saw these red banners off down the street and had to know what they were. A lot of this day went like that, actually. We just kept walking and walking and walking because we’d see something and get curious. These banners were outside of Zenizuka Jizo-do Hall (point H on the map).
In the far north-east of the Senso-ji temple grounds, just past Zenizuka Jizo-do Hall, is the shibaraku statue. Shibaraku is a popular piece in kabuki. This statue is of the 9th Danjuro Ichikawa (1868 – 1903), a famous kabuki actor. He is shown in the role depicting shibaraku, which was his specialty.