A visit to Asakusa Temple or Senso-ji : “Vibrant Flavors of the Old City”

Asakusa Temple also called Senso-ji has been a popular place in Tokyo since the olden days.

My very first visit to the shrine was about fourteen years ago on a hot summer day in the middle of August. One of my friends and his family had taken me around Tokyo for sightseeing and Asakusa was our stopover after a delicious lunch of Omurice at a popular restaurant in Tokyo.

After walking around the narrow lanes of the long shopping arcade called Nakamise, we reached the temple’s inner gate (Hozomon) – , notable for a giant straw sandal (waraji) hung up on one side.. A lustrous red building, a big red paper lantern hanging at the main gate (Kaminarimon or the ‘thunder gate’), a five storied beautiful pagoda (Gojūnoto) next to the main hall (Kannondō) of the temple, and smoke billowing out from thousands of incense sticks jutting out of huge sand-filled containers – it was a view that is not easy to forget, even after fourteen long years. That was my first ever temple visit in Japan and I loved everything about it. (including the huge and yummy ice candies that I had outside the temple.

The place was crowded with visitors, tourists and was bustling with activity. You could here the Buddhist monks chanting from inside the temple. People lighting incense sticks and planting them into the sand of these huge containers, joining hands and praying. Many of them, particularly the tourists were buying omikujis, random fortunes written on the strips of paper, hoping for a good fortune.

The o-mikuji is a kind of prediction of a person’s chances of his or her dreams or wishes coming true, of finding a good match, or general matters of health, fortune, life, career etc. When the prediction is bad, it is customary to fold up the strip of paper and attach it to a pine tree or a wall of metal wires alongside other bad fortunes in the temple grounds.. A purported reason for this custom is a pun on the word for pine tree (松 matsu) and the verb ‘to wait’ (待つ matsu), which have the same reading in Japanese, the idea being that the bad luck will wait by the tree rather than attach itself to the bearer. I also bought one and I remember keeping it with me so it must have been one of good fortune (though I can hardly recall what it was about)

I finally got Photomatix #1



My friends told me that the temple was one of the most popular temples in Japan and so it remains crowded throughout the year with thousands of people visiting every day. Though most of the buildings of the temple were destroyed during the war and a relatively recent reconstructions, the popularity of the temple has not changed a bit since the day it was built, i.e in the year 645. (The Asakusa Shrine, built in the year 1649 by Tokugawa Iemitsu, stands only a few meters to the left of the temple’s main building)

A legend has it that two fishermen discovered the Kannon (god of mercy) statue from the river while fishing and the temple was build to place and honor the stature and the fishermen.

Various events are held in and around the temple throughout the year. Although I visited in August, I narrowly missed the popular Asakusa Samba carnival. The biggest event is the Sanja matsuri held on the third weekend of May, ever year for three consecutive days and attracts over 2 million locals and tourists.
Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to visit the temple again since then but the month of May is not very far and with a trip to Japan coming up for me soon, I hope to make it to the Sanja matsuri this year.


Here are some additional shots of Senso-Ji.

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