Saturday, 19 July 2014

Tokyo Trip: Asakusa and Senso-ji Temple

Kaminarimon-The Thunder Gate
Any tourist going to Tokyo will not want to miss Asakusa. It's the old town of Tokyo where the famous Senso-ji temple is located. My wife and I have visited Senso-ji temple at our previous trip and we have been missing the place since. It was no surprise that we chose to visit Tokyo oldest temple again. As the newly built Tokyo Sky Tree is only a stone throw away from Asakusa, we planned it together in the day's itineraries.

Guardian of the Gate
Big Red Lantern
Bottom View of Lantern

The first sight that greeted us when we came out from the Asakusa Train Station was Kaminarimon-the Thunder Gate which was the outer gate of Senso-ji temple. Flanked by the two statue guardians-Fuijin (God of Wind) and Raijin (God of Thunder), the entrance of the gate was easily recognizable by the big red lantern with the Chinese character "Thunder Gate" hanging in between. The Thunder Gate is the symbol and icon of Asakusa. It is always crowded but taking a photo with it is a must do when you visit Senso-ji temple.

Japanese Masks
Lanterns for Sale

Entered thru the gate, we reached the crowded Nakamise-dori. Stalls selling masks, souvenirs, foods, clothing, accessories etc lined the both sides of the 200 meters street. We were spoiled for choices on what to buy back home and took our time to explore the stalls that caught our eyes. Make sure you compare the prices of the stalls that sell similar items before purchasing anything. The difference can be vast. Generally I felt the stalls nearer to the Kaminarimon were cheaper but I could be wrong.

Hozomon Gate
Big Sandal
Hozomon Gate and Asakusa Pagoda
Hozomon Gate and Sky Tree

We would reach the second gate-Hozomon Gate leading to the main temple. Just like Kaminarimon, it is protected by two guardians (Two Deva Kings) with a large red lantern at the main gateway. There are two side gateways which are distinguished by a gold lantern each hanging from the ceiling. The Hozomon gate has a second floor which historic Buddhists' treasures are stored. But it is restricted to the public. At the rear end of the gate, two gigantic sandals donned the walls at either side. It was said they were shoes made for the Deva Kings that guarded the gate. At the left side of the Hozomon Gate lies the famous Asakusa Pagoda. The five story pagoda housed the sacred Buddha's relic and can be visited only at certain time of the year.

Main Shrine-Hondo
Purification Fountain
Close View of Hondo
Girls in Kimono

Going through the Hozomon Gate, we reached the main shrine (Hondo) of the temple. It was newly renovated. After the purification process at the purification fountain, we offered our prayer to the sacred golden Kannon statue which was housed inside the inner shrine and out of sight to the public. Legend told that in Year 628, the statue was found and re-found by two fishermen at the Sumida River after they threw it back into the river. The chief of their village enshrined the statue in small temple, recognizing the sacredness of the statue.  Following the local custom, we offered incense at the incense pot at the main temple ground. It was said that the smoke from the offered incense would cure one from any illness and bad luck. We also visited the Asakusa Shrine that is dedicated to the two fishermen brothers-Hinokuma and Takenari Hamanari. Pay attention to the two Komainu (Korean lion dogs) guardians after the stone Torii. I found them rather special. Near the Asakusa Shrine was Nitenmon-the lesser known gate of the Senso-ji temple.

Asakusa Shrine with Komainu
Senso-ji Temple Layout

On our way back to the Kaminarimon, we visited some old streets that side tracked from Nakamise-dori. There were many things on offer and we could witness the day to day life that the locals lead. Note that some of the streets offer good photo-taking spots for the nearby Sky Tree. Make sure you snap some photos first if your next stop is there.

Colorful shop
Old Street Shot 1
Photo with Sky Tree
Old Street Shot 2
Street shot with Sky Tree
Give me a "FIVE"!

One of the reasons we came to Asakusa was also to try the it's famous Unadon (Eel rice). We actually targeted a famous restaurant introduced by the tour guide book but found it already closed for business when we reached there. Guess what, it was only 130 pm! The business must be overwhelming.  We were quite disappointed as we have to walk a few streets to reach there. Our spirits picked up again when we found another restaurant which has a long history of selling Unadon.

Sorry! Shop Closed (Unadon Restaurant)
Lantern-making Shop
Open for Business! (Unadon Restaurant)
Although expensive, we were not disappointed. The Unadon served to us were of top quality. They could be easily distinguish from the ones you try at the normal shops. The tenderness of the grilled eels and tare sauce for seasoning were from a different league.  Make it compulsory to try the Unadon if you are here. This was one of my most sumptuous lunch in Tokyo.

Unadon Feast
My Portion
Last Photo before Feast
After filling our stomach, we were prepared for our next destination-The Tokyo Sky Tree.

Family Photo at Kaminarimon
For Your Pinning


  1. Cute photos, I love Asakusa too...

    1. Hi Muza-chan, thanks for the visit. Asakusa is a very charming destination!

  2. I'm planning a trip to Tokyo with my husband in February 2015 and hope to read as many travel blogs as possible. Your blog is very well written and informative. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience.

    1. Hi Susanna, thanks for visiting my blogs and the great compliments. Hope they will help you with your trip. Wishing your family and you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  3. It sounds as if you and your family had a wonderful trip to Asakusa and Senso-ji! Happy New Year :D

    1. We certainly did :-)! Happy New Year to You too!

  4. Gorgeous collection of vacation shots, Paul! Love the colours!

  5. What a wonderful travel at Asakusa and Senso-ji Temple.
    Hope someday i'll be there. hihi