After our delicious and fancy kaiseki experience, we headed over by foot to Senso-ji Shrine and Kaminarimon. One of the major tourist destinations in Tokyo, the ancient Buddhist temple was bustling with foreigners, students, and locals. It is Tokyo’s oldest and most significant temple, and has an interesting legend attached to its foundation. According to lore, two fishermen, the brothers Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari, found a statue of the bodhisattva Kannon (or Guanyin) in the Sumida River in the year 628. The chief of the village, Hajino Nakamoto, who was also a wealthy trader, realized its significance and sanctity when the fishermen brought the bronze statue to them. He housed the statue in his house, which he then remodeled to be a small temple, so that people in the village could worship the statue and Kannon.
The first thing you see when you enter the grounds is Kaminarimon, or the Thunder Gate. It was first built in 941, but was moved around and eventually ended up in its current location in 1635. After a series of unfortunate fires, the current gate was rebuilt in 1960. The gate houses four statues; the Shinto gods Fujin (god of wind) and Raijin (god of thunder), as well as the Buddhist god and goddess Tenryu and Kinryu. The giant red lantern that hangs prominently is a chochin, donated in 2003 by the founder of Panasonic in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the start of the Edo period.
To approach the temple, you must walk through Nakamise-dori, a street lined on both sides with a variety of stores. This was established in the early 18th century, when shop-keepers were permitted to set up shops on the approach to the temple. Most of them were kitschy touristy stores, with some selling trinkets and souvenirs, some selling traditional clothing, shoes, and fans, and most importantly, some of them selling food.
At the end of Nakamise-dori is another slightly less imposing gate, called Hozomon. Apparently it’s not nearly as significant as Kaminarimon, since there really wasn’t any interesting information about it.
Once you go through Kaminarimon though, you finally reach the actual shrine itself. In front of the shrine is a giant smoking brazier, where people waft smoke onto their bodies to chase away evil spirits. Nothing too interesting inside the shrine itself (unless you are a Buddhist and want to pray), but directly outside were some very interesting things to do.
You could have your fortune read with omikuji. What you do is, after you make the initial donation of 100 yen, you grab the metal container, shake it around until a stick pops up. Then you look at the number on the stick, go to the corresponding drawer, and take out a sheet with your fortune written on it.
I received a “Good Fortune”, with the following information…
“Washing off all bad things in the past, now everything is clear and clean.
The brilliant light and glorious flower came out clean again being washed so well.
What you desire will finally gets profit, which means everything around you comes out quite well.
Time passing by, everything turns out to be better, just like the sun shines all day long.
*Your hopes will turn out to be real. *Recover from sickness, but if careless, might be serious. *The lost thing will be found and the person you wait shows around. *There are no problem of building and moving house. *There are no worry about marriage, travel and employment.”
Awesome! My cousin, however, was not so fortunate, and received a fortune that blatantly said “Bad Fortune” in bold letters. Uh-oh. Fortunately for her, there is a way to remedy that; simply fold your fortune into a long strip, and tie it on the many metal omikuji rods. That way, your bad fortune can’t follow you home!
There was also this bronze statue of a lovely man, in Buddhist seated position. According to legend, if you rub the man on a certain part of his body, the corresponding part on your body will cease to have any pain. An Australian tourist I explained this to decided to be hilarious and rub the statue’s head…to cure his own balding! I hope that works out for him. 🙂
The alleyways to either sides of the temple were mostly commercial. They sold a lot of traditional wares, and it was a LOT less touristy and kitschy, which was nice. We drank some delicious hand-crafted iced teas to cool off, and I bought a super cute little gift pack of traditionally made Japanese sweets (Edo-dagashi) in the shape of a bento box, complete with little sushi bits!
Only two more days left in our Japan trip! I am feeling much more motivated about getting all these posts up and published, so hopefully you guys will see the rest of the trip in due time. I hope you have been enjoying this so far; if you have, please leave a comment or leave a like. It really helps me gauge what people enjoy reading about, and helps me write up even more fun content!