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08/07/2012

Sensoji Temple, Asakusa—Oldest Temple in Tokyo

Saikiin doudesu ka, blog readers?

I got to drop into Sensoji Temple on my escapade through Tokyo, and I’ve brought some of my experience to share with you. Hopefully you’ll benefit from it—maybe learn something or two? For starters, it's a temple, which means it's based around buddhism, not shintoism. Shinto has shrines. Buddhism has temples. Got it?

Good, on with the show.

Sensoji Temple (36)

The most famous feature of this temple is the trademark giant choji or joji (paper lantern), right inside the Kaminarimon gate and always a bright read, though the name on it may change depending on the sponsor who donated the lantern. Across from the main temple building is the ablution pavilion and a large (and I mean, large) basin filled with sand that has something curious smoking out of it. If you observe the locals who actually know what they’re doing, you’ll spy them wafting smoke onto themselves. This smoke is thought to cleanse your impurities and help you towards perfecting yourself.

Things to see/do:

TempleAttempt ablution (watch the locals who know what they’re doing)

TempleThe beautiful paintings on the ceiling of the main shrine building/architecture

TempleStroll through the many stalls/vendors

Ideal souvenirs: Charms from the shrine for good luck and money, and being more beautiful, etc. These are unique to this shrine, and range anywhere from 500 yen to 1000+ yen. Inside each of these is a little kami which will help you’re wish come true, allegedly (if you believe in this sorta’ thing), and you can find daruma dolls, joji, tenugui, maneki-neko, samurai swords (fake, people! They’re fakes!), sensu, uchiwa, fuurin, yukata and their other accessories, both for men and women—you name a traditional souvenir, they’ve got it here! It’s a one stop shop for those things that are classical and authentic to Japan which people will love back home.

   A major tip as you shop: you will need at least a good two hours here, and that’s if you’re a speed shopper. I recommend visiting all of the stalls, or at least as many as you can, before you make a purchase of anything. A lot of times, the stall across the way or even down a few feet will have what you want in a better selection, or more than 200 yen cheaper. It’s a good way to find what you want without paying a hiked price for it.

   It’s also very interesting to see how religion and capitalism mesh together here in Sensoji. You have the shrine and the holy stuff, then you have street vendors with their various wares. The people here are very nice too.

   On the way back out I got a better look at the two famous gods that protect the temple. One is fuujin, god of the wind, and the other is raijin, god of thunder (shown below, respectively):

Sensoji Temple (106)
Fuujin

Sensoji Temple (107)
Raijin

They’re pretty fierce looking statues, aren’t they?

Hope you get to visit this place. It’s flavored with old Japan, and definitely worth what it takes to get here and spend the day. I give it four stars! Until my next post, ja ne~ bloggers,

:3

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