During my first visit to Tokyo I was staying in the Asakusa District, so naturally on my first full day in the city I started my tourism there. Asakusa is an interesting part of Tokyo where you can get an idea of how the city looked in centuries past. It’s also cheaper to stay in Asakusa than in some other regions of Tokyo, which is part of the reason why I was lodging there.
Asakusa is centered on Sensoji Temple and I took the traditional scenic approach to get there, starting the Kaminarimon (“Thunder Gate”). Like many other things in Asakusa, the original Kaminarimon was destroyed during World War 2 and what we see today is a reconstruction. The gate has a massive paper lantern hanging from it that is flanked by a pair of statues representing the gods of wind and thunder. When I was there the top part of Kaminarimon was covered for restoration work but I could still see most of it and I walked under the lantern to begin my approach to Sensoji.
The Nakamise Shopping Street extends from Kaminarimon up to the main grounds of Sensoji Temple and is lined with shops selling various trinkets, souvenirs, and snacks. I remember seeing a lot of kids in their school uniforms walking around that day. Perhaps there were on a school trip or maybe they were on a break from their classes. I didn’t buy anything but in retrospect I wished I had tried out one or two of the sweets that a few vendors were offering. As you get closer to Sensoji you’ll cross Dempoin Street, which is meant to look like street from the Edo Period. It was somewhat early in the morning so much of Dempoin was still in the process of opening up for the day.
At the end of Nakamise is the Hozomon Gate and beyond it are the main buildings of Sensoji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo. The original version of Sensoji was completed around 645 AD and today the reconstructed temple is one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist attractions. Sensoji feels like a little piece of the Edo Period sitting in the middle of modernity, with an old-looking temple and trees surrounded by a modern cityscape. The main hall of the temple wasn’t open to the public when I was there but the ornate interior was visible from the outside and I could see several of the temple’s monks performing a ceremony inside the hall.
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