Asakusa and Senso-ji Temple Guide
Asakusa being one of Tokyo’s oldest neighborhoods, it is almost no question what to do there: the Senso-ji Temple (also known as the Asakusa Kannon temple) grounds are one of the main highlights of the area and such a great place to explore!
With over 30 million visitors a year, Senso-ji holds a special place in local people’s hearts. Senso-ji is the most visited religious site worldwide thanks to the large population in the Tokyo metropolitan area and the vast amount of visitors that Tokyo attracts. Keep reading and learn some interesting facts about this temple.
- Take a ride on the Tokyo Skytree to see Tokyo from a whole new perspective.
- Visit Senso-ji Temple and interact with the locals.
- Senso-ji Temple is Tokyo’s oldest temple.
- Asakusa Senso-ji Temple is not just a normal shrine. It has a shopping street called “Nakamise-dori”. You can find anything there, from kimonos, chopsticks, fans and keychains, to Japanese confectionary.
- Senso-ji Temple is known to bring luck for almost anything: health, studies, love, etc.
Asakusa and Senso-ji Temple
Senso-ji Temple is the main attraction in Asakusa. It is the oldest temple in Tokyo, founded in 645. Every year, about 30 million people visit it from inside and outside of Japan. In each season, various events are held, continuing from ancient times. It is a great spot for enjoying the atmosphere of the Edo period.
Kaminarimon, the main gate, is the first thing you will see when reaching the Senso-ji Temple. A large red lantern is its mark. On both sides of the gate are statues which are images of the gods of wind and thunder, Fujin and Raijin. The lantern is 3.9 meters in length and 3.3 meters in diameter, weighing 700 kilograms. When you look up at it from close by, you will be surprised by its powerful presence.
Hozomon is the gate following Kaminarimon. The images of Nio are standing on the left and right of Hozomon. They are the gatekeepers of the temple, protecting the Buddha. Their characteristics are the powerful faces that look like they might come to life at any moment. Displayed on the rear side of the gate are two giant straw sandals (waraji), each measuring 4.5 meters in length.
Exploring the Temple
If you come to Tokyo for sightseeing, you cannot miss Asakusa. You can spend about half a day, visiting Kaminarimon, the main attraction, and strolling down the shopping street leading to Sensoji Temple.
Main attractions of Senso-ji Temple
You enter the temple complex via the fantastic, red Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) and busy shopping street. Before passing through the gate look to both sides, to see the statues of Fujin (the god of wind) and Raijin (the god of thunder), and under the giant red lantern, to see a beautiful carved dragon.
After you pass through Kaminarimon, there are around 88 shops in front of the temple on Nakamise Street. In the shopping street, continuing from several hundred years ago, ukiyo-e goods (woodblock prints) and small Japanese articles are sold. You can also buy Japanese sweets to take away. However, it is not good manners to shop with food in your hands, so you should either eat the food once you buy it or pack it in your bag.
Finally, you will see the temple beyond another huge gate at the end of the street. Just outside the temple is the best photo-spot, with one of Tokyo’s symbols,the Tokyo Skytree, in the background.
Inside the Temple
The first thing you will notice are the enormous golden statues, lights and flowers behind a massive glass wall. This is the central area for prayer where only the priests are allowed in. One of the reasons that Senso-ji is so popular, is, because it is known to contain a special, mythical statue.
The ceiling of the temple portrays various celestial scenes of Buddhism. A nymph is pictured, swirling among cherry blossoms, and a dragon curls its tail against a water-colored sky, perfectly framed against that bright red wooden ceiling.
Unique things to see around the Temple
You can see some unique things around this temple, such as the giant waraji sandals, an incense burner, a fountain, o-mikuji, and a five-story pagoda.
Two giant waraji sandals hang from the Thunder Gate of the temple. These are considered kami-sized sandals (kami is a Japanese god). They symbolize the power of the temple's Nio protectors. Each sandal weighs around 250 kilograms (550 pounds).
Senso-ji has a large incense burner in front of the main hall of the temple. It is customary to wave the smoke towards you to purify yourself. Incense can be purchased and lit there if you would like to contribute to the smokiness.
As with most temples, there is a purification fountain at the entrance. Senso-ji's fountain features dragons. It is customary to lightly cleanse your hands and area around your mouth with the water. Please note that you are not supposed to drink it.
O-mikuji are random fortunes, written on strips of paper. You place a few yen into a metal box and pick out a small wooden stick from an adjacent container. The kanji characters on the wooden stick will lead you to the box where you will find your fortune. Luckily, since this is a big tourist site, the fortunes are written in English as well as in the Japanese kanji.
Although you cannot enter the five-story pagoda, its towering 48-meter appearance in the sky is very photogenic. The bones of Buddha are enshrined on the top floor. The lighting from sunset to 11pm is also splendid.
Asakusa and Senjo-ji Temple guided tour
Enjoy a memorable walk through the streets of Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s most picturesque and historic neighborhoods, with Asia Highlights. Relax and enjoy as your knowledgeable guide walks you through some of the city’s iconic sites, lovely gardens, towering skyscrapers and historic shops, passing cherry and maple trees as you go.
History of Senso-ji Temple
The history of the temple is an interesting one. Legend has it that long ago two fishermen on the Miyato River, the current Sumida River, caught a statue of Kannon —the merciful nirvana achiever— in their net. Despite trying to return the figure to the river multiple times, it always came back to them.The leader of the region pointed out that it was Kannon, so it was enshrined.
Although Senso-ji Temple was founded in 645, the current crimson building is much more modern, as it was rebuilt after being destroyed in WW2.
You can reach this temple easily if you are already in Tokyo. To reach Asakusa from Tokyo Station, head for Ueno Station on the Yamanoteline, and switch to the Tokyo Metro Ginza line at Ueno. Asakusa is the third stop from Ueno, after Inaricho and Tawaramachi. The ride from Ueno takes about five minutes.
If you are coming from Asakusa Station, head for the A4 Exit of the Toei Asakusa line, or Exit 1, 2 and 3 of the Tokyo Metro Ginza line. It is a 5-minute walk to Senso-ji.
If you are coming from Tokyo Skytree, head for Oshiage Station on the Toei Asakusa line, it is a 3-minute ride to Asakusa Station. From the Tokyo Skytree Station Iriguchi bus stop, get on the Toei Bus ("To-08," bound for Nippori-ekimae), and get off at the Tobu-Asakusa Station bus stop. If you decide to take a walk, it is reachable within 20-30 minutes.
There are no closing days, and the main hall is open from 6.30am to 6.00pm. The admission is free.
Etiquette inside Senso-ji Temple
Visiting a temple is an exciting thing to do, but you need to follow the etiquette so that you and the visitors around you have the best experience possible. When visiting Asakusa and Senso-ji temple, there are some rules you need to follow, such as:
1. Pay attention to notes about cameras, whether you can or cannot take photos.
2. Keep noise to a minimum, as it is a sacred place.
3. Be respectful, do not point at anything with your feet.
4. Be mindful of other visitors who are praying and try not to disturb them.
5. Do not clap your hands.
6. If a temple has candles or incense, place one in the designated place, throw an offering in the saisen (box), and join your hands in prayer silently.
7. Enjoy your visit!
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