Sunday, June 25, 2017

Tokyo's Oldest Temple: Sensoji

-- Susan, every other Sunday.
Japan has many ancient Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, but Tokyo's Sensōji is one of the oldest and most significant.
Sensoji sits only 2km from Tokyo's famous Skytree (lit in blue).

Sensōji stands in Tokyo's Asakusa district, and holds the unique distinction of being among the world's most frequently visited religious sites. Over 30 million people visit the temple annually, either as tourists or to offer prayers to its guardian deity, Kannon.
Kannon (Guanyin in Chinese) is the Buddhist bodhisattva of mercy. According to history (or legend, depending on your view), a pair of fishermen drew a miraculous statue of the goddess from the nearby Sumida River in 628 - and shortly thereafter founded Sensōji to honor the goddess. 
Buddhas at Sensoji.
Although the original temple was destroyed by bombing during World War II, it has since been rebuilt on the model of the original.
Dominating the temple entrance (and the street beyond) is the Kaminarimon, or "Thunder Gate," which includes an enshrined image of the thunder god Raijin.
The Kaminarimon at night

Beyond the Kaminarimon, a long approach lined with shops:
Nakamise Street - a fantastic place to shop or snack.

Leads to the even larger Hozomon, or main entrance gate:
The massive Hozomon.

A pair of giant woven sandals hang on the back of the Hozomon. The sandals, or o-waraji, measure 4.5 meters tall and weigh 2500 kg (over 500 pounds) apiece:
One BIG shoe.

The sandals are considered "kami-sized," and symbolize the power of the nio guardians (deities who guard the hozomon, as well as the temple) whose statues sit in the bays on the other side of the hozomon:
He sees what you did there.

It takes 800 people to construct the sandals, and the town of Murayama donates a new pair of o-waraji to Sensoji every decade (and has done so since the 1940s)
Temple visitors touch the o-waraji in hopes of gaining powerful walking skills, and the ability to walk long distances without tiring. Sadly, I'm too short to reach them, but I'm hoping the visit alone is enough to give me the stamina to get through my travels in Japan over the next three weeks. My son and I fly out today, and I'm looking forward to having many more adventures to share when we return! 


  1. Susan, this is the only Japanese temple I ever saw in my trips to Japan. It was on the itinerary of a city tour that I took on the day my client paid me to recuperate from jet lag before I had to speak in English before an entirely Japanese crowd. I also saw the Diet building and the tiny, gorgeous fashionistas on the Ginza sporting their "body-conscious" clothing. They were astonishing--dressed head to toe in one designer's wares, like walking billboards.

  2. Another great tour of places I long to visit. Though on your sandals point, If you were in Italy you could simply touch a pair of Tods and be able to drive wherever you had to go. In Greece, well I think bare feet are more in fashion, and when you touch a pair of those...just imagine where you might end up.