In the heart of Tokyo lives the ancient Buddha temple 浅草寺(Senso-ji). The temple was constructed in 645 making it the oldest temple in Tokyo. It is dedicated to Kannon Bosatsu, a Buddhist goddess of mercy. When arriving, we entered through the Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder gate). On the other side of this marvelous gate lies a 200m long shopping strip, Nakamise. Traditional fans, souvenirs, Yukata and a variety of local snacks are among just some of the objects adorning this busy street. The Nakamise has a history going back several centuries and remains a popular tourist area today. Fortunately, we arrived relatively early, beating the initial crowds surrounding Senso-ji. The temple’s second gate Hozomon, signifies the end of Nakamise and the entrance to the temple’s main hall and accompanying five-story pagoda. This, pagoda stands a massive 53.32 metres high and was originally constructed around 942. However, it was destroyed in an air-raid during World War 2 and has been rebuilt. An information board stationed in front of the shrine dictates that the bone of Buddha is kept on the top story of the building.
The main hall of Senso-ji temple is a sight worth seeing. By walking up the steps you have a direct view into the hall (but behind a security fence obviously). Gold painted everything lies beyond the fence, a beautiful sight to see. But another lesser-known beauty we found by looking up. The ceiling of the main hall displays a series of beautiful paintings, of which many people miss as they forget to look up!
Surrounding the main hall are a number of accompanying shrines including Awashimado, enshrining Awashima Myojin (a deity who protects women), Hashimoto Yakushido (Buddhist divinity of medicine), Betendo (enshrined goddess of music, dance and fortune), and a range of other shrines and monuments. In summer, bright greenery surrounds the temple site which gave us wonderful photo opportunities.
Luckily, we read up on Senso-ji before visiting. The neighboring tourist information centre houses 8th floor observation deck which gives perfect views of the temple and Nakamise shopping strip on one side, and the Tokyo Sky Tree on the other. Free observation decks are everywhere in Tokyo, you just have to know where to find them!