Translated by Misaki
The Hidden Treasures of Sensōji Temple: Eccentric Statues?!
Written by OsawaKimie
Sensōji Temple is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tokyo and its precincts are always packed with visitors. What they don't know is that there are many unusual statues hidden all over Sensōji Temple. Let's see some of them!
Sensōji Temple 浅草寺 is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tokyo. Many visitors take pictures in front of Kaminarimon (雷門 "Thunder Gate"), shop for souvenirs on the Nakamise Dōri and pray at the hondō (main hall) of the temple before going home. What they don't know is that there are many eccentric stone and bronze statues hidden all over the precincts of Sensōji Temple. Let us introduce some of the hidden treasures that only those in the know can find.
Hidden Treasures at Sensōji: Statues of Popular Characters
On the way to the Sensōji Temple's Main Hall from Kototoi Dōri, you will find your first few treasures: characters from the Japanese manga "Gegege no Kitarō" (ゲゲゲの鬼太郎). Kitarō, Medama no Oyaji and Konaki Jijii are all popular yōkai (妖怪, supernatural monsters from Japanese folklore) that appear in the manga. Among them, you will also find a statue of Ultraman, the action hero from the Japanese television series of the same name.
Hidden Treasures at Sensōji: Statues of Historical Figures
This is the statue of ichikawa Danjūrō IX, a famous kabuki actor of the Meiji period (1868 - 1912). From the powerful expression and the appearance of this statue, you can really get a feel of just what a majestic actor he was.
Up next is the statue of Iwako Uryū standing near the Awashimadō. This statue was commissioned to honor Ms. Uryū, a social worker who is considered to be the "Japanese Florence Nightingale". She devoted her life to helping the poor and orphans and was the first woman to receive a Medal of Honor with Blue Ribbon (an award from the Japanese government for great achievements in social welfare or public service).
Hidden Treasures at Sensōji: Kankan Jizō
At Zenizuka Jizōdō, you will find kankan Jizō, a 300 year old stone statue. You can see the heavy wear and tear this statue has endured through the numerous earthquakes and fires it's gone through. It is believed that your wish comes true when you tap the Jizō with one of the small stones placed next to it. "Kankan" in its name comes from the Japanese onomatopoeia for a tapping sound.
Hidden Treasures at Sensōji: Chikara Ishi ("Strength Stones")
You will find chikara ishi ("strength stones") near the statue of Iwako Uryū. They were used during "strength measuring tournaments", that took place at the Sensōji Temple at the end of the Edo period. These tournaments were popular among men who worked at liquor and rice stores at that time. Can you imagine it? This stone weighs about 375 kilograms (827 lb)!
Hidden Treasures at Sensōji: Jiun no Izumi (慈雲の泉)
On the west side of the Main Hall stands a sculpture called Jiun no Izumi (慈雲の泉). It features a group of people on a cloud looking up to the sky. Doesn't it make you wonder what in the world they are looking at? Stop by and examine it from different angles. Maybe you will find the answer.
These are some of the unusual stones and bronze statues at the Sensōji Temple. Statues tend to be ignored unless they are well known or prominently displayed. But now you know some statues that are culturally important and could even give you blessings. We hope you find the statue-hunting at Sensōji Temple entertaining!
Sensōji Temple 浅草寺
Address: Tokyo, Taitō, Asakusa 2-3-1
Nearest Station: Asakusa station (浅草駅) on any line
Access: 5-minute walk from Asakusa station of Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Tōbu Isesaki Line or Tsukuba Express. A 7-minute walk from Asakusa station of Toei Subway Asakusa Line
Phone number: +81-3-3842-0181
Official Website: Sensōji Temple