Senso-ji Temple

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February, 2016

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After getting off the boat from the Hama-Rikyu Gardens, a fortifying lunch was next. We looked into the restaurant window at the mocked up plates of plastic food that are all the rage and we all settled for noodles in a broth. Whilst the others opted for either chicken or duck, I foolishly went for prawn. What I didn’t realise was how difficult it would be to eat two absolutely huge, hot battered prawns, sat on top of the noodles and soup, with only chopsticks. Needless to say a fair degree of inappropriate slurping took place and my top was splattered with soup stains.

This part of Asakusa had a very different feel to it as It’s one of the oldest areas of Tokyo with narrow lanes, old wooden houses and craft shops. We were here to see the Senso-ji shrine, known as the mother shrine as it’s the oldest in Tokyo. We walked down a long, narrow pedestrianised street with shops selling iconic trinkets and souvenirs on both side. The artificial cherry blossom and silver chimes hanging above the door of each, made it look much less tacky than it would otherwise have been.

We then passed through the ‘Thunder Gate’ flanked by two gods with the word ‘thunder’ written on a red paper lantern hanging from the ceiling. Needless to say, every visitor, including us, wanted their photograph taken standing underneath it.

At the main entrance were a pair of stone lions honouring two men who found a statue of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, in their fishing nets way back in the year 628. The two inch statue is now enshrined in the temple although not available to see.

Two huge straw sandals hung on the walls on either side of the entrance symbolising the traditional footwear of the Buddhist pilgrim. Next up was an incense burner where people wafted smoke over parts of their body that ached. By now, we’d done rather a lot of walking, but lifting up our feet into the smoke just wasn’t going to happen.

There was a five storey pagoda to the side of the temple where we were told each storey represented one of the elements – earth, water, fire, earth and the ether. Its interior central pole prevented damage during earthquakes.

Our final stop on our city tour was Asakusa Culture Information Centre, an architecturally interesting wooden building,which opened in 2012. The architects are now designing the stadium for 2020 the Tokyo Olympics.Having checked out the good views of the shrine from the 8th floor we finished our day with a coffee in their café whilst Yuko showed us how to fold origami cranes.

Helen Jackson

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