Tag Archives: Asakusa

Tokyo – Sensoji Temple, Asakusa

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Sensoji Temple was built in the year 628. It represented to both Shinto and Buddhist worship. Although crowded, worshippers made their way to the main alter with their intentions known. They knelt before a huge statue of Buddha in a low lit hall with light provided by a few lanterns hanging on the ceiling. However, the golden face of the Buddha was glistening. Pilgrims and tourist alike paid their respects. With their hands clasped and head bowed down, they moved slowly in a clockwise direction. Incense was lit. The smell permeated throughout the hall in the still air. At a corner, people tossed a box containing rolled paper until one piece popped out. Apparently their fortune is written on this piece of paper. They did this religiously too. I was amused. Driven by faith, anything can be believed.

“the smell of incense got stronger as we approached the main hall” – Navindd

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In one area, donations counters were set up. With a small contribution, one could buy a roof tile with drawings and writings of their choice. This will go towards replacing existing tiles or for a new building -a novel way to contribute. At a shed near the entrance to the hall, water flowed out of a brass dragon’s mouth. This is a ritual for purification and a set of pictorial sketches showed the correct method. Pilgrims gathered here and washed their head and mouth. A five storied pagoda rose tall adjacent to the hall. A small manicured garden provided some greenery and relief from the strong sun.

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At the perimeter of the temple compound, three young women dressed in traditional kimono added very nostalgic scenery. A man was busy under the heat of the day and from the hot plate where he was cooking up a local thick pancake-like dish called “okonomiyaki”. Expectedly, a long queue appeared at an ice cream parlor.

From here we walked to another shopping area called Kappabashi. The locals shop here for household items. The weather was quite uncomfortable and we were getting hungry as well. It was late in the afternoon. Shopping had to be put off for the moment.

We walked along a narrow street and entered into a restaurant with raised wooden floor. This restaurant’s specialty is “okonomiyaki” dishes. Seated on the floor with a hot plate in front of us, the ingredients were placed on the table. Mixed vegetables with some meat and mixed into a batter. The host showed us how it was done. I ended up doing the other. Navindd helped to turn over the flat bread like dish like a pro. Sweat poured out while dining as the heat from the hot plates radiated through the small room. The dish was alright but we felt heavy in our belly afterwards. The heat from the sun was unrelenting.

Tokyo – Asakusa

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The boat ride was pleasant and provided an opportunity to observe the backwaters of the old neighborhood. The river journey passed under several bridges that connected east and west of the Sumida River. Across Asakusa pier is the sky piercing 634m Tokyo Sky Tree. In the foreground is the Asahi Beer Tower with its unique flame symbol. At a nearby bridge, bright rickshaws pulled by energetic young men and women provided an alternative to walking in this historic region. The day was cloudy but hot. A cold local desert, mocha ice cream with red beans and slices of oranges peels, was a treat in the heat of the day. Re-hydrated, we headed into the busy Kaminarimon Street towards the popular Sensoji Temple.

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Asakusa, a district in Taito, Tokyo is the centre of Tokyo’s “shitamachi”, literally “low city”. During the Edo Period (1603- 1867), Asakusa was the entertainment district, site of kabuki theatres and a large red light district. It is Tokyo’s oldest geisha district. Today it is popular as one of Japan’s premier temples, Sensoji Temple, located here on the west banks of the Sumida River. Another important feature popular with the locals, is Kappabashi, a shopping street. I found it relaxing and uncrowded. The wide streets are easy to walk with plenty of eating outlets.

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From the pier, it is a short walk to Kaminarimon Gate, “Thunder Gate”, and the gateway towards Sensoji Temple. Two gods guard the entrance on either side. It was crowded. This pathway led to the delightful Nakamise Dori. Throngs of people, some in traditional costumes, walked through the crowded and delightful Nakamise Dori leading towards Sensoji Temple. There was a spirit of festivities. Towards the end of the street was another giant red gate, the Hozomon Gate. A giant lantern hung in the center as pilgrims and visitors passed below.

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An array of snack food including “sanbei”, a baked cracker spread with miso, red bean paste filled pancakes, soft dumplings and my favorite sweet sticky “mochi”. A variety of packaged gifts including folding fans, “yukata” and decorated dolls, enticed the visitors. It was exciting to see some women dressed in traditional colorful kimono. A few side streets extended from Nakamise Dori. These streets were less crowded and gave a sense of old Tokyo. The houses built from wood, lattice windows and tiled roofs. Back on the main street, business was brisk, cries from vendors to attract visitors with their wares, sweet aroma of delicious delicacies wafted through the air. As usual, we snacked along the way sampling local specialties. Being a long weekend with Monday a public holiday, the crowd had built up. However, the flow of the human tide was smooth and casual.