The rain lashed and tried to tear away the umbrella from my hands as I approached the massive Hozomon Gate that precedes the Sensoji Temple. I was on a buying spree for souvenirs to bring back home at Asakusa’s Nakamise Street when I chanced upon its red gates. I still have a few hours left before my plane leaves for Manila and it’s only with good fortune that my last destination before leaving Japan would be Tokyo’s largest Buddhist Temple and not to mention, the country’s oldest.
Crowds, both local and foreign flock the temple in droves. I spent a minute under the eaves of its gargantuan gate before proceeding further. The rain was really whipping it. I took the opportunity to admire the massive paper lantern hanging from the beams of the Hozomon Gate; painted in red with huge Japanese characters decorating its sides, they said it represents lightning and thunderclouds.
Sensoji Temple was built in 628 AD and finished 17 years later. It suffered massive destruction from the air raid bombings of the Second World War and was reconstructed thirteen years after the devastation. The shrine is dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon, Goddess of Mercy.
A five-tiered pagoda stands proud on the left side of the temple, the Gojunoto. At 53 meters high, it is the highest of its kind in Tokyo. Although it is originally dedicated for comedians (please don’t ask me why haha), it is said that it houses ashes from none other than Buddha himself.
Running to the dry comfort of the outlying buildings surrounding the Kannon Hall, a sort of courtyard between the Hozomon Gate and the Sensoji main temple, I witnessed tourists and the faithful purchasing omikujis, a fortune inscribed on a little piece of paper. One can either get good or bad luck from these though. But worry not, if by chance you get a not so good fortune, just tie the paper on a string for the wind to blow your misfortune away.
Off the center of the square, a big metal cauldron billowing with white smoke was attracting people like magnet. Holding my umbrella on my left and my camera on my right, I took a closer look to see what the fuss was about. Young and old alike were fanning incense smoke to themselves; for purification, good health and healing of ailments they said.
Further on, I saw what looked like a bronze sculpture of a warrior with dragons positioned beneath his feet, a Chozuya. Water was sprouting from its mouth to a basin surrounding the statue. It’s a custom for the Japanese to wash their left hand, then their right, their mouth and finally the water laddle’s handle for purification before going inside a temple.
Jostling with the throngs of tourists, I finally made it inside the massive Sensoji Temple. Intricate glowing lanterns hanging off the sides of immense red pillars light its dim interiors, illuminating the exquisite handiwork of Japanese craftsmen that built the shrine.
I forgot about the din of the crowd and helplessly gaped at the great and painstaking details of the temple. Sensoji is overwhelmingly beautiful.
Coins were thrown down a pit fronting the golden statue of the Goddess Kannon before hands were clasped and heads were bowed. The faithful are saying their prayers and wishes to the six centimeter pocket-sized golden goddess housed inside the shining shrine. This is the original image that two fishermen found on the Sumida River that started everything in 628 AD.
The rain only intensified as I got out of the Sensoji Temple. Tourists and pilgrims still kept on pouring though, oblivious to the downpour. I checked my watch, it was almost time to go back to Hotel Okura and gather up my things. I’m about to leave Japan but I was glad that chance gave me a very memorable and significant destination before heading back home to Manila.
Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo, Japan
Contact Number: 03-3842-0181
Open Hours: Daily 6:00AM - 5:00PM
Website: Click Here
GPS Coordinates: 35.714750,139.796761
View Location on Google Maps: Click Here