See Traditional Japan At The Sensō-ji Temple In Tokyo
Tokyo is a fast paced high energy modern metropolis. Those looking for a more traditional Japan would be best served by visiting a place like Kyoto. Still Tokyo has plenty of history to uncover and one of the most popular places to see some ancient Japanese history is Sensō-ji Temple.
Sensō-ji is Tokyo’s oldest temple with roots dating back to 628, when two brothers were fishing in the nearby Sumida River. They found a statue of the Buddhist deity Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. They threw it back but it was said the statue kept returning to them. By 645, a temple was completed to house the statue and quickly became a gathering point for worshipers. Over the years, the temple complex grew. Parts of the grounds have burned down over the years and been rebuilt. The temple was destroyed by World War II allied bombs, but was quickly rebuilt after as a symbol of Japan’s rebirth.
The temple anchors the district of Asakusa, one of the only remaining traditional looking parts of Tokyo. The entrance to the complex is the Kaminarmon Gate, which is one of the most recognizable symbols of Japan It translates to Thunder Gate as one of the statues inside the gate is Raijin-sama or God of Thunder. Along with the God of Wind Fujin-sama, they act as protectors to the temple. The most distinguishing feature of the Thunder Gate is a large paper lantern that visitors walk underneath on their way in.
After passing through the gate you witness the tourist trap portion of the complex. The Nakamise-dori is a pedestrian only street of shops featuring trinkets and yummy Japanese snacks. This is definitely the most crowded part of the temple grounds. There are also plenty of side streets around the temple that also have shops and restaurants to cater to the large amount of tourists that visit the temple.
After passing Nakamise-dori you reach the second gate called the Hozomon Gate. At 71 feet tall, the Hozomon Gate is almost twice as big as the Kaminarimon Gate. To the left is Goju-no-To, a five story Pogada and one of the only remaining in Tokyo.
Straight ahead is the main hall dedicated to Kannon. In front of the hall is a cauldron of incense which is believed to give good health. The main hall of Sensō-ji holds what is believed to be the very statue of Kannon the two brothers fished out of the river. To the right of the main hall is the Asakusa shrine. If you are around in May the largest festival in Tokyo, the Sanja Matsuri takes place here with the Asakusa Shrine playing host.
Visiting the Sensō-ji Temple
The temple is located in the heart of Asakusa easily accessible by public transport. You can use the Ginza line, Asakusa line or the Tobu Isesaki line and get off at Asakusa station. From there it is an easy 5 minute walk to the front gate.
The temple grounds are open 24 hours a day years around with the main hall open from 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Admission is free