Exploring Asakusa Sensoji Temple

LOCATED at the northern part of Tokyo is Sensoji Temple, an impressive Buddhist temple which is among Tokyo’s oldest and most famous temples. Built somewhere in the 7th century, the temple attracts hundreds of tourists and worshippers from all over the world each day.

Arriving from the Asakusa subway station, we made our way to the Kiminarimon, or Thunder Gate, a majestic structure which serves as the entrance to the Sensoji Temple a few meters away.

At the street sides, sturdy individuals wearing shorts and Japanese hats call out passengers to try the rickshaw rides, or carriages pulled by men and driven around the district.

Entering the Kiminarimon will lead you to the Asakusa Nakamise shopping arcade. Here is a street buzzing with the never-ending click of cameras and different accents from all over the world.

Asakusa Nakamise stretched out for about 200 meters with rows and rows of stalls brimming with all sorts of goods— from snacks, bags, shoes and clothes, hobby materials, Kimono wear, tortoise shell works, coral ornaments, jewelry, accessories, folk crafts, Japanese traditional toys, Japanese lanterns, stickers, and a huge assortment of Japanese food items.

I squeezed my way around, merging with the tourists and locals, clicking my cameras and missing the chance to sample the Japanese delicacies.

From one of the stalls, a very colorful and attractive display of folding fans caught my attention and I immediately clicked my shutter. Not satisfied, I went nearer, not paying attention to the picture of a camera posted at the center of the fans.

Suddenly, the stall owner came out, uttered a string of Japanese words which I did not understand and pointed at the picture of the camera. How was I to know that picture taking was not allowed?

Just before going up to the Sensoji temple is a huge bronze incense burner where the smoke wafting from the burning incense sticks are supposed to bring good luck.

A few feet away is a fountain of water with dragons spitting out water. Sawada-san and Misako-san, our chaperones, told us to use the ladles to transfer water from the fountain and rinse both hands or mouth and spit the water for purification and cleansing rites just before going to the temple. I skipped the ritual because I couldn’t risk getting my cameras wet.

I savored it all—the sight of the five-storied pagoda standing proudly beside the main temple, the flickering candles worshippers lighted inside the temple, the chanting, clouds of smoke from the incense burner, the splashing of water from the cleansing fountain, the lively trade going on at Asakusa Nakamise shopping street, the vendors calling out customers to buy their wares, pigeons flying around, and tourists taking photos of everything and anything,

I wanted to stay until all my memory cards or batteries were exhausted but time was running out. I wanted to taste the multi-colored ice cream from one of the stalls and lick it on the way back to our assembly place but changed my mind when I saw the sign “Don’t eating the street.” Okay. The only souvenir I took home was a pack of fake cigarettes which I bought for 399 Yen, a reminder of a colorful afternoon at the Sensoji temple grounds.

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