Sensoji (浅草寺) Temple is Tokyo’s oldest temple and perhaps one of the most significant. It is one of my favorite temples as it is a beautiful sight to behold and there are so many things you can see and do around the area.
The iconic Kaminarimon gate and Nakamise street market
At the entrance of the temple, you will see a giant paper lantern with “Kaminarimon” (雷門) written in kanji, with the god of wind (Fujin, 風神) on the east side of the gate and the god of thunder (Raijin, 雷神) on the west side of the gate.
The first thing you will notice when you enter the gate is the street market called Nakamise (仲見世) that stretch all the way to the temple itself. There will be souvenir stores where you can buy traditional Japanese candy, keychains, kimonos, and even katana (刀, traditionally made Japanese swords that were used by the samurai of ancient and feudal Japan) replicas.
The street market also has delicious street snacks, such as mochi (餅), melon pan, manju (饅頭), monaka (最中), taiyaki (たい焼き) and dango (団子). If you’re feeling hungrier, you can head to the side streets where restaurants are available for a quick grab before heading to the temple.
The Hozomon gate and the main temple
After going through Nakamise, you will find another gigantic gate called Hozomon (宝蔵門). Upon entering the gate, you will see a majestic and ancient Buddhist temple that’s splashed with a vibrant color of crimson red. There is typically a huge crowd in front of the main temple at Sensoji, covering themselves with a cloud of smoke that’s rising from an incense burner. It is believed that the smoke from the incense burner has a healing effect. The incense can be purchased from shops nearby.
You can also purchase an omikuji (おみくじ) paper fortune from the main office that is located in front of the temple, a strip of paper that predicts your fortune. Once you slip the ¥100 coin into the money collection box, you can shake the omikuji box to pull out the fated omikuji rod that has a number on it. Following the number, you can search for the drawer labeled with your number and take one omikuji slip. If you get a good fortune then that is a paper to keep, but you can always tie the bad fortunes on iron rods to leave the bad fortune behind.
Other souvenirs that can be purchased at Sensoji temple are omamori (お守り) amulets that bring luck or protection, scrolls, or the goshuin (御朱印) notebook with the temple’s unique red stamp and calligraphy.
A vast, history-filled property to explore
I definitely recommend exploring the areas around the Sensoji temple. There is a garden next to the main temple that has Tokyo’s oldest stone bridge (made in 1618) and underneath it is a beautiful pond with colorful koi fish swimming around. A lot of majestic and beautiful Buddhist statues are scattered around the temple area. You may also come across Bentendo (弁天堂), where you will find the shrine of Benzaiten (弁財天), the goddess of music, dance and fortune. There is a huge bell hung inside the building of shoro (鐘楼, bell tower), only stricken once at 6 a.m. every morning to announce time.
Sensoji is ridden with lively tourists and locals. It is a historical place that has many beautiful artifacts and statues. There are so many shops, restaurants and cafés around to satisfy everyone’s needs. It is a place that must be visited if you happen to be in Tokyo.
- The property is open 24 hours, all year round.
- The temple buildings are open:
- 6 a.m. – 5 p.m. from April and September
- 6:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. from October to March
- Stores in Namakise close around 7 p.m.
- The buildings are lit up every day after sunset until around 11 p.m.
- 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō, Tokyo 111-0032
- Sensoji is a 5 minutes’ walk from Asakusa Station.
- Asakusa Station is around 20 minutes from Tokyo and 25 minutes from Shinjuku by train and metro.