Sensoji Temple, also known affectionately by the locals as the Asakusa Kannon (goddess of mercy) Temple, is one of Tokyo’s oldest and most well-loved temple. Completed in year 645, the origin of this Buddhist temple is shrouded in a mystical legend. Two fishermen brothers, on a fateful day of 18 March 628, caught a small gilt bronze Kannon statue in their fishing net during one of their usual daily fishing expeditions at Sumida River. According to tradition, they threw the unwanted object back into the river twice, but the same golden image was retrieved by their fishing net consecutively three times.
The image was then dedicated to the overlord, who initially enshrined it in his house and later built a hall for it, which is now the Asakusa Kannon Temple. The two-inch image of Kannon remained hidden within the temple today, being too holy to be gazed upon. This is said to be in accordance with a dream revelation of a renowned Buddhist priest that the image should be concealed from human view.
Located just few steps away from the Asakusa Metro Station (Ginza Subway Line) is the glorious, impossible to be missed Kaminarimon(雷门)，or in literal translation, the Thunder Gate. This large outer entrance gate of Sensoji Temple and the giant red lantern hung from the centre of the gateway roof, are collectively the most compelling symbol of Asakusa and the old Tokyo today. Two protector gods stand guard at both sides of the gate; Fujin, the god of wind on the right, and Raijin, the god of thunder on the left. The two deities act as a barrier to keep evil forces from invading the temple. The gate was burned down in a massive fire in December 1865, and was reconstructed 95 years later by the founder of Panasonic, the world renowned electronic company.
Unfortunately, we paid our visit on a gloomy day when a mild typhoon hit Tokyo. As can be seen from the pictures, the iconic enormous red lantern was half hidden on that particular day, and the two deities were not visible under the cover of protective cloths.
Beyond the Kaminarimon stretches the 295 meters long Nakamise-dori (仲世见通). Covered with western-styled bricks, the street was lined with around 150 tiny shops selling all kinds of local snacks (such as sembei or the rice crackers), trinkets and a usual array of souvenirs from traditional folding fans, to cute little solar toys, lovely fridge magnets and yukata. The shopping street has a history of several centuries. The shops usually open from 9.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m.
Perpendicular to the Nakamise Shopping Street is the Shin-Nakamise, a new covered shopping arcade lined by various shops and restaurants of fancy design.
At the end of the Nakamise-dori is the Hozomon, facing the magnificent and colourful temple’s main hall/ Kannondo Hall. Adorned with a plaque reading “Sensoji” in Kanji, this second gate features a triple-compartment internal structure. The top two compartments consist of storerooms keeping hold of Sensoji’s treasures and Buddhist objects.
The Main Hall was destroyed in the March 1945 Tokyo air raids, and was reconstructed more than a decade later through donations collected from the faithful adherents around Japan.
A huge bronze incense burner stands between the Hozomon and the main hall, the belief is that the smoke swirling from the incense sticks has curative powers.
On the left side adjacent to the distinctive main hall is the 55 metres 5-storeyed tall pagoda. The pagoda contains relics of Buddha stored in a golden container hanging from the ceiling on the uppermost floor, a gift from Sri Lanka.
For some real gorgeous pictures of the features of Sensoji Temple (during a usual non-typhoon day, of course!), see the official website of Sensoji Temple.