After the sushi breakfast at Tsukiji Fish Market, we made our way to Asakusa district (pronounced as Ah-sock-sah) to visit the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Asakusa Sensoji (金龍山浅草寺) has a rich history dated back to the 7th century. The charismatic temple built in 645 A.D was one of the few places in Tokyo which survived the air raids during World War II. This means we are treading a sacred place serving the same purpose today as it did more than a millennium ago!
The gate is known as Kaminarimon or Thunder Gate (雷門) with its huge red lantern, is a landmark of Asakusa. The two fiery-looking statues flanking the lantern are the God of Wind and the God of Thunder.
Asakusa Nakamise Shopping Street
Through the gate and we were greeted by the colourful shops lining up neatly along the alley. Asakusa Nakamise Shopping Street (仲見世通り) is one of the oldest shopping streets and some shops have been operating here for generations. We see shops selling yukata, paper products, folding fans, traditional crafts and souvenirs.
But we went straight for the food, as usual..lol We had the rice crackers, mochi, charcoal-grilled biscuits, steamed buns and much more. And they are absolutely delicious. Thank goodness the street is only 200 meters long else we would be gaining some serious weight..haha
We also realized that the prices of the souvenirs are mostly standardized. So just grab it if you like it. Don’t try haggling with the sellers, you may somewhat offend them and risk getting a stare. The Japanese typically do not embrace bargaining like other Asia countries.
3 things to do at Sensoji
After all the munching, we reach the imposing Hozomon gate (宝蔵門) or Treasure Gate.
This is an attractive and similar looking gate as the Kaminarimon but it has 3 huge lanterns instead. Pass the gate and we enter a sacred place. In our sights are the main temple hall and the famous Five Storey Pagoda. In which, the top floor of the pagoda houses the relic of Buddha.
And of course, the 3 common things to do at Sensoji;
1. Pray for good health
Proceed straight to the temizuya or water pavilion with the guardian statue and dragon faucets. Use the wooden dipper to scoop water to wash your hands and mouth.
Then pay ¥100 for the incense stick, place it in the bowl-looking incense burner and fan the holy smoke towards your face. It is believed that the smoke will purify the soul, heal the body and bring in good luck.
2. Offer your prayer
Enter the main temple hall to offer a prayer. Clap your hands twice and bow twice, toss the money into the donation box and pray, then clap one last time.
3. Read your fortune
Next thing to do is read your fortune at the ‘automated’ Sensoji Temple fortune teller.
Pick up a metal container at the counter, point the container hole at the counter and start shaking until a fortune stick falls off. Then pay ¥100 to retrieve a piece of omikuji (fortune paper slip) from the drawers according to the number on your fortune stick.
This is similar to how we do it at Chinese temples but there will be nobody reading your fortune to you. Not that you need to since one side of the omikuji explains in English. Congrats if it’s a good luck slip, keep that for a year. If it indicates bad luck, tie it to one of the metal poles so the bad stuff won’t follow you.
We were both lucky to get a good luck slips…yeah!
Sensoji is very much a touristy spot which the crowds will constantly remind you. But the history of the temple alone warrants a visit. Well worth the visit for us and we enjoyed our time here.