One of the prime reasons that draw majority of people to Tokyo’s Asakusa district is Senso-Ji temple. Senso-Ji Temple is perhaps the most revered of all Buddhist shrines in Tokyo. Also referred to as Asakusa Kannon, this shrine is located within an astounding and expansive temple complex in Asakusa – a prime region of Tokyo’s downtown. With a history dating back to the 7th century, Senso-Ji is not only the oldest temple in the region but also one of the most visited places of worship in the country. It is estimated that more than 30 millions of devotees flock here per year.
The temple is dedicated to Guan Yin or Bodhisattva Kannon – the goddess of mercy and happiness who is believed to have been protecting people for about 1,500 years. However, Senso-Ji is more than just a Buddhist shrine and has to its credit a plenty of highlights that will for sure spell bound you. So if you are to Tokyo, be sure to visit this amazing temple and it will never disappoint you, with its serene and meditative atmosphere.
History of Senso-Ji Temple
The temple’s history is as alluring and fascinating as the ambience of the place itself. The golden image of Bodhisattva Kannon was first revealed to the world on March 18, 628 when it got stuck in the fishing net of two brothers, Hinokuma Hamanari and Takenari while they were fishing in the Sumida River in Asakusa. Surprisingly, the statue came back to them again and again, even though they tried to return it to the river. Eventually, they handed over the shrine to the village’s headman and a Buddhist, Haji no Nakatomo who then vowed to remain as a Buddhist priest. Later he made his home the temple to enshrine the statue of Bodhisattva Kannon thus allowing people from far and near to worship the goddess.
But the statue was decided to veil from the human sight as per the well-known Buddhist priest, Shokai Shonin’s revelation from a dream. Formerly an ordinary fishing village, Asakusa soon began to flourish as an outcome of the countless number of people who visited here to revere the goddess. An image identical to the original one was created by Ennin – the priest of Enryaku-ji – during his visit to the temple in the 9th century. Later the temple underwent refinements due to the illustrious figures of the time that flocked here. Subsequently, the temple became the centre of Edo culture.
Highlights and Features of Senso-Ji Temple
As you reach the temple, you’ll be welcomed by the Kaminari-mon, literally meaning ‘thunder gate’ that dominates the temple’s entrance. This striking gate has an enormous paper lantern that is enhanced with brilliant red and black tones, which in turn represent lighting as well as thunder clouds. From Kaminari-mon, Nakamise-dori that stretch about 200 meters and lined with numerous stalls selling amazing souvenirs will lead you to the temple’s second gate – Hozomon, literally meaning ‘treasure house gate.’ As you pass through this gate, you’ll find the main building, along with an astounding five-storied pagoda. Devoted to Kannon Bosatsu, the pagoda was originally built in 942 by military commander Taira no Kinmasa.
However, it was destroyed by fire and later reconstructed in 1973. There are also many things that are worth seeing within the temple, such as the Main Hall – a national treasure erected by Tokugawa Iemitsu – the third Edo shogun; Yakushido Hall – an elegant structure that dates back to the 17th century; Nitenmon Gate that has been declared a significant Cultural Property by the Japanese government; Bentendo Hall enshrining the deity of Benzaiten; Awashimado Hall, which is devoted to the deity of Wakayama Prefecture and Zenizuka Jizo-do Hall. Most of these structures were destroyed during World War II and later renovated.
Senso-Ji Temple is also venue for a range of events, including Sanja Matsuri, Hozuki-ichi, Asakusa Samba Carnival and Tokyo Jidai Matsuri. Above all, the temple stands out for its magnificent festival of lights. The festival of lights is based on the theme: ‘A Shining Asakusa for the 21st Century and it memorializes the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Edo Shogunate.’
Good to Know
Adjacent to the temple is Asakusa Shrine that is dedicated to three men: Hinokuma Hamanari, Hinokuma Takenari and Haji no Nakatomo, who are regarded as the founders of Senso-Ji temple. Earlier a segment of Senso-Ji temple, Asakusa shrine was separated from the main temple during the Meiji period. The shrine is also lauded for its outstanding, contemplative garden that has been meticulously maintained in Japanese style.
- Opening Hours: daily from 06:00 to 17:00
- Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
- Tel: 03-3842-0181
- Price Range: The entry to the temple is free
- How to get there: Senso-Ji Temple can be easily reached from Asakusa station that is only few minutes away from the temple. Asakusa has excellent transportation system, with several railways and subways serving the place including Asakusa Subway Line, Ginza Subway Line, Tobu Railways and Tsukuba Express.