Translated by Collin Radford
Sensoji Temple - The Highlights Of Tokyo's Oldest Temple
Written by OsawaKimie
Sensoji Temple is known as the best sightseeing spot in Tokyo. The sheer size of the temple grounds allows for a day stroll though the area.
Sensoji Temple is known as one of the best sightseeing spots in Tokyo.
However, due to the size of its grounds, there are many visitors who don't get a chance to see everything. For those who want to see all of Sensoji Temple, we are going to explain the most effective route.
The Thunder Gate
With a lantern that weighs about 700 kilograms, the Kaminarimon Gate, also known as Thunder Gate, is one of Asakusa's biggest landmarks.
Countless people gathered here to take commemorative photos.
Did you know that the lantern was provided by Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic).
Nakamise Dori - The Famous Shopping Street
Nakamise Dori appears when you pass through the Kaminarimon Gate. It is one of Japan's oldest shopping districts.
This is a Kibi Dango or "millet dumpling" in English. The one shown is from Nakamise Dori's popular shop, "Azuma".
With over 90 stands in the Nakamise Dori, you can enjoy both shopping and cuisine unique to Asakusa.
Hozomon Gate, the Treasure-House Gate, is what awaits those who have gotten their fill at Nakamise Dori.
Atop the gate is a collection facility with disaster prevention equipment, where several precious cultural artifacts are stored. There is also a massive Waraji* sandal made by using 2,500 kilograms of straw. It is used as a charm to ward off evil.
It also represents the power of the Nio Guardians. Nio Guardians are the muscular guardians of the Buddha standing at the entrance of many Buddhist temples.
*Waraji: Sandals made from straw rope that in the past were the standard footwear of the common people in Japan
Omikuji - Fortune Paper Strips
Once you've passed through the Hozomon Gate, you should give Omikuji a try. Omikuji are random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan.
Sensoji Temple's Omikuji are rumoured to have a high rate of misfortune. If you draw a "kyo" (bad luck), make sure to bind it on the special branches set up for binding omikuji. It is believed that the gardian deities of Sensoji will take it over from there and protect you from the bad luck.
Chozuya - The Purification Area
Chozuya is where you go to purify yourself before you enter the main hall. You pour some water on your hands and mouth. There are always people gathered here. The centre is adorned with a stone statue of Ryushinzo, who rules over water.
Jokoro - The Large Incense Burner
Right in front of the main hall is the Jokoro. People gather and bathe themselves in the smoke. It's believed that bathing in the smoke of incense will help your wounds heal faster. this belief has been passed down for ages.
Sensoji Temple's Main Hall
Once you reach the main hall, you can make your monetary offer and pray to the Kannon enshrined in the back of Shrine.
At Sensoji Temple they recommend that you put your hands together in front of your chest and recite the words Namu Kanzeon bosatsu. Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu is the Japanese Buddhist form of saying "Amen to Kannon Boddhisattva".
Yokodo - Get a Red Seal
After you descend from the western staircase of the main hall you will find the Yokodo. Here you can get a temple seal stamp known as Goshuin。
A Goshuin has the name of the temple, the date, and several seals imprinted on it. At Yokodo, there are two types of Goshuin available. They feature the Kannon and one of the seven gods of fortune, named Daikokuten, respectively. A Goshuin not only proves that you've paid your respects but it is also great to commemorate your trip.
Standing at the back of Yokodo is the Yakushido, which was established about 345 years ago. It is among the oldest buildings in Sensoji Temple. The BUddha Yakushi-nyorai is enshrined here.
When you move further past Yakushido you can see Awashimado, where Amida-nyorai and Awashima-myojin are enshrined. Every year on February 8th, the ritual Harikuyo is performed, where used, bent needles are inserted into tofu and konjac and offered in a service.
The five-storied pagoda lies behind the the small pagoda dedicated to sutra offerings. When you look at the tips of these two pagodas, you'll notice that they have a similar design.
Zenizuka Jizodo - A Hall for the Jizo
Zenizuka Jizodo, where people go to pray for prosperity in business, is found a few minutes north of Awashimado. Buried under the stone pagoda is a type of currency from the Edo Period - which lies at the origin of its name (zeni is a term of money, and zuka refers to a hill or mound).
This is the Kankan Jizo monument, found to the right of the Zenizuka Jizodo. There is an ancient custom to knock on the body of this Jizo statue with a small stone while offering a prayer. "Kankan" is the sound of visitors using the stones placed next to the Jizo to knock on its body, and this sound became the origin of its name.
The Hilly Garden behind the Main Hall
After leaving Zenizuka Jizodo behind, move toward the east and you will find a garden-like area.
Walking around the shrubbery, you meet several stone monuments and statues. There is no better place to take a break and relax in the shade.
If you walk towards the main hall for about 10 minutes, a large gate will appear on your left. This is known as the Nitenmon Gate, where two of Buddhism's four guardians, Jikokuten and Zochoten, are enshrined. It has also been designated as one of Japan's important cultural properties.
Shinboku - A Sacred Tree
To the left of the Nitenmon Gate, in front of the police box, looms a massive ginko tree, which is 800 years old. It's said to have grown from a branch that Minamono Yorimoto stuck into the ground when he visited the Sensouji Temple. You can feel the unfathomable power of life and nature from this tree, which has survived even the war.
To the southeast of the main hall is the Bentendo, which is one of Kanto's 3 Daibento's, and houses the Rojo-benzaiten. Benzaiten was initially worshiped as the goddess of music, wisdom, and wealth in India. In Japan, she is known as one of the Seven Gods of Fortune.
Next to the temple is an impressive bell tower. You can only hear it ring every morning at 6:00, or during New Year's Eve. The bell rings over all of Asakusa are a must-hear.
Behind Nakamise Dori
The path behind Nakamise Dori is a great way to make your way back to the Kaminarimon Gate. Not only is it less crowded than the main street, it also has several curious souvenir shops and eateries.
Strolling back with an ice cream or crushed ice and looking at the scenery of Nakamise Dori from behind can be a highlight in and of itself.