You know you've gotten to the temple complex when you see the so-called Thunder Gate (Kaminarimon), which is the icon of Asakusa with its massive red lantern. Once past the gate, you're on a shopping street called Nakamise, which leads to the temple's second gate, the Hozomon. I can't imagine how crowded it must be on a sunny day. With all the rain, the several blocks leading to the shrine were crammed with people wielding a dangerous assortment of umbrellas. There is a narrow walkway running between booth after booth of mostly tourist junk, although here and there was a purveyor of slightly better quality goods -- a parasol maker, a sword shop, an emporium where you could spent hundreds of dollars on chopsticks! There are also booths with traditional Japanese snacks (rice crackers, bean-paste cakes). Once on the temple precincts, the commerce doesn't stop; it just changes character. There were seven or eight different vendors of the charms. None of the booths had English explanations (and each of the salespeople whom I asked merely shook their heads), so I just randomly pointed out things that looked interesting. I continue to believe that charms from the individual temples and shrines make much more original (and welcome) mementos for the folks back home.
Sensoji (also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple) is a temple located in Asakusa, a central part of the ***amachi. ***amachi ("downtown") is the old town of Tokyo.
The 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, Sensoji was built there for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645, making it Tokyo's oldest temple.
When approaching the temple, visitors first enter through the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), the outer gate of the Sensoji and one of the most popular sights of traditional Tokyo.
Can you see a man rising his hand with a white paper?....YES, that's my tour guide,he is shouting at me to move faster else will get lose!...I can't even move faster as you can see the people crowded.
You have seen the plastic food displays in restaurants all over. Well, in Asakusa you can explore the stores that sell these interesting items. Along Sappabashi Dogugai Dori there is an area that specializes in food service supply, including stores with thousands of these food items, from tiny sushi to huge platters of whole fish. You will never see anything like it anywhere else. Everything is for sale, of course, but they are not cheap; you will probably just enjoy it for the experience.
The fortune-selling arrangement at Asakusa was more elaborate than at the Shinto shrines: a six-sided metal box containing long sticks was shaken, and eventually one of the sticks, bearing a kanji character, would fall out. Then the fortune-seeker would find a tiny drawer marked with that character and remove from it a piece of paper bearing the fortune -- though like the Shinto shrines, if you didn't like what you got, you could leave it behind on wires strategically placed for the purpose. Unfortunately, my kanji-fluent guides were staying home sick the day of my visit, so I never found out what was supposed to happen to me!
In the photo, you can see the metal box in the background as the fortune-seeker looks for the proper drawer.
Various events are held throughout the year in the Sensoji temple area.
Hozuki-ichi (Hozuki Market)
- Hozuki are ground cherries, a typical summer plant in Japan. They are approachng me to buy 1:)
Celebrating this event once a year on summer.(July)
Ok, a lot of Japanese names are going to be coming out here, please bear with me.
The Asakusa area is probably one of the coolest places that most people never visit. Taking a tour will get you there the easiest. The subway is a bit more of a challenge and its location on the east side of Tokyo is always traffic packed. Still the gate is immediately outside Asakusa station and can't be missed.
Sensoji Temple is 1400 years old and one of the more interesting temples. There is not only a Buddhist temple, but a Shinto shrine there. To get there, you will go through Kaminarimon, the large gate in the picture. It is right near the street and you can't miss it. Once through the gate, you will see what looks like a flea market. This is Nakamise. Here is where you can find really cheap souvineer junk, and food to take with you. They have really good prices on Ginsing, considering the area. Walk through Nakamise until you go out the back, and you are at the temple.
A more off the beaten path kind of place is the Hanayashiki Amusement Park. It is older, kind of like the old Coney Island park in New York. There is a roller coaster that literally goes through someones back yard! We were almost hit by a kite on the ride I took.
Dont Miss: the Asakusa Samba Carnival. It is right outside Kaminarimon. It is almost like being in Rio, except that the people don't look latin.
Avoid at all costs! Yoshiwara (AKA Senzoku). I can't say this enough. Many people know this area because it is the historic red light district. And you can still purchase sex there. But it is a lower blue class area, and the only place in Tokyo I ever felt that I was really not wanted, and where my safety was in jeopardy.
After the 'Thundergate', a shopping street of over 200 meters, called Nakamise, leads from the outer gate to the temple's main gate, the Hozomon. Besides typical Japanese souvenirs such as yukata and folding fans, various traditional local snacks from the Asakusa area are sold along the Nakamise. The shopping street has a history of several centuries.
The main attraction here is the Senso-ji Temple that is presently being renovated, there is no admission price and there is a series of shops that line the pedestrian street leading up to the main temple. The shops itself are one of the few places where you can buy souvenirs to take back home...The best part of Tokyo is that the shop keepers don't hound you like they do in China. The prices are fair, not cheap and not expensive. Also bargainning isn't done in Japan, so the price is the price on it. As for the temple there is a series of building around the main one. As much as it seemed that it's crowded the place is sooo big that you can walk around exploring the other building almost alone, or at least it seemed that way. Highly recommend it... It's one of the top tourist attraction in Tokyo.
If Tokyo is your only Japanese destination, you really must see the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. But even if you are going on to other Japanese cities like Kyoto and Nara, Sensoji still has its charms. As Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple, Sensoji has that feeling of old Japan that is hard to capture in 21st century Tokyo, but it also has a bustling of energy that I've seen at few temples anywhere in Japan. Sure, it is visited by lots of tourists, but many of these visitors are local Buddhists themselves, going through the rituals of their religion. These include rubbing smoke on your body, washing your hands and clapping ceremoniously. Plus, it is one of the few temples that I've been to that have extensive shopping stalls on the grounds, where you can by souvenirs for yourself, your friends or your dogs (see my shopping tip). Additionally, if you want to spend around Y8000, you can get a rickshaw ride around the temple and the ajoining old beighborhood.
Okay, maybe that's a little steep. But the area around the temple is also speckled with restaurants and shops of character. Asakusa should be on everyone's Tokyo itinerary!
This immense structure includes a very large hall in which one can find temple workers selling charms and the fortunes I mentioned in another tip. What interested me were the stations where calligraphers sat. The price list suggested that you could have something written for sums running from Y3000 to Y10000. Jay later told me that pilgrims come and have the name and seal of the temple inscribed to verify that the pilgrimage has taken place.
Senso-ji iwas originally built in 645 (no, I didn't omit the "1"), though it has often succumbed to fire and the most recent reincarnation was in 1958. Another reconstruction has just, or is about to, take place. The temple is sacred to Kannon, whose story I shall have to look up -- I think s/he was a human being who attained nirvana but declined godhead and elected to remain a bodhisattva. There are Kannon statues all over the place.
Behind the main hall is the shrine proper. I'm afraid my photograph isn't especially good, and after the fact I learned that I wasn't supposed to have taken it at all. So I won't make it the main photo for this tip.
Nakamise-dori is the main street approach to the temple. It is said to have come about in the early 18th century. The length of the street is approximately 250 meters and contains around 89 shops. Today both sides of the streets they are many shops selling ranging from souvenirs, Edo-style crafts shop, kimono, t-shirt to Buddhist scrolls.
Also they are eating places serving Japanese traditional food. You can also cleanse yourself at the large urn burn with incense at the temple courtyard.
If you are only able to visit Tokyo during your visit to Japan, you will want to visit Asakusa. Asakusa will give you a taste of the traditional Japan without a long trip to Kyoto or elsewhere. It is the old center of Tokyo and has traditional style Japanese temple, shrine, and pagoda.
Between the 16 and 18 hundreds, the attraction was somewhat different - Asakusa contained the notorious "Yoshiwara", the city's licensed pleasure quarter.
But today,the crowds are drawn by Sensoji Temple, the Five Storied Pagoda and the traditional Nakamise shopping arcade.
You will enter the area through the Kaminarimon gate you'll find it by following the signs from exit 1 of Asakusa Subway Station. On the right, notice the God of the Wind, and on the left, the God of Thunder.
Just opposite the gate is Asakusa Tourist Information Centre. Get your FREE map.. open 10:00am to 5:00pm daily.
Once through the gate you'll be in what they call Nakamise Shopping Arcade. The street is lined with colourful, lively stalls selling traditional knick- knacks, foods and rice crackers....rows and rows....this is the time for those little souveniers....:)
Hanzomon Gate marks the end of the street, the treasures of Sensoji are stored inside.
to be continue
Kappabashi Dori is close to Asakusa....The closest subway station on the Ginza line is Tawaramachi, but walking from Asakusa would probably be faster than taking the train.! Kappabashi dori is the next major road about 200 m further away from Asakusa..
On this street you can literally buy anything you may ever need to set up a restaurant or an advanced kitchen.The most interesting stores are those selling the plastic models of food that are often displayed outside restaurants in Japan, it is hard to work out whether the restaurants first buy the display and then decide how to present the food or the other way round...:)
These plastic food displays make cute souvenirs but be aware they are not cheap - the quality of craftsmanship is high and so is the quality of the materials..
Apart from the plastic food several shops here also sell real food and especially sauces and condiments. It is also possible to buy cooking instruments of a wide variety and obscure purpose of all sizes and qualities.
Many stores have odds and ends of sets of plates and other porcelain and ceramic wares on sale at knockdown prices .... wares displayed outside the shop on tables are a good indication of a bargain…In Japan 4 and its multiples (8 & 12) are associated with death so it is rare to see sets of 4 or 12 of anything. Giving someone a gift of 4 items is an easy way to end the friendship!.:)))
Best time to walk around the area is Tuesday through Friday, when the crowds aren't as big.
Not really recommended on Sunday when Demboin Garden and the shops on Kappabashi Dori are closed.
The Asakusa district was one of few in Tokyo not destroyed during WWII and therefore is one of the more "quaint" neighborhoods. Originally a district devoted to theater and entertainment of all types, it now is directed to the large number of tourists and visitors to the shrine. In addition, several streets are business streets with numerous stores selling kitchen and restaurant products most famously and others selling traditional Japanese costume and musical instruments. Delightful traditional restaurants are everywhere as depicted on the accompanying pictures. Typically, the dishes prepared will be demonstrated by plastic models in the windows. Tokyo is of course extremely expensive but the restaurants in the Asakusa district are surprisingly reasonable as soon as one gets a few blocks from the temple.
One of my favourite places in Japan is Asakusa. It's steeped in tradition, it has a beautiful temple to match, an open-air market to buy your traditional goodies and lots of good food. I would really recommend you to stay in beautiful traditional inn (ryokan) over here and try out the onsen. Can't think of lovelier way to experience local culture and tradition.