Tokyo Sensoji Temple
Sensoji Temple, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple, is dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of mercy and compassion, Kannon (Quan-Yin to the Chinese). It is the oldest temple in Tokyo, and also one of its most popular. Legend has it that two brothers were fishing in the Sumida River in 628 AD, and happened to catch a statuette of the goddess in its waters. Despite the fact that they tried repeatedly to return the statuette to the water, it kept returning to them. Therefore, Sensoji Temple was constructed nearby to honor Kannon. The building was finished in 645 AD.
The temple’s “Thunder Gate” (Kaminarimon) has become a well-known symbol for the Asakusa district and indeed all of Tokyo. This is the point of entry for all who visit Sensoji Temple. A shopping street, which is more than 200 meters long, runs from just inside the Thunder Gate to a second temple gate, known as the Hozomon. This street is called Nakamise, and is several hundred years old. It sells traditional Japanese wares like folding fans and yukata. Visitors can also sample traditional local snacks.
Once you pass through the Hozomon Gate, you will arrive at the main hall of the temple, with a five-story pagoda nearby. Both of these buildings were destroyed during World War II, so what you see today are reconstructions of the originals. However, the Asakusa Shrine, which stands a short distance from the main hall, survived Tokyo’s air raids and remains standing more than three centuries after its construction. It is one of the most popular Shinto shrines in Tokyo, although Sensoji Temple is Buddhist. It is not uncommon for Buddhist and Shinto structures to exist alongside each other in Japan.
Sensoji Pagoda at Night
Although it can be crowded, Sensoji Temple is well worth a visit during several festive events. The largest of these is Sanja Matsuri, a Shinto festival held at the Asakusa Shrine. It is held on the third weekend in May, and honors the three fishermen who founded Sensoji Temple. There is also the Asakusa Samba Carnival, which takes place in August, and the Hagoita Market in mid-December, where you can buy the ornamented wooden paddles that are used in New Year’s games of hanetsuki.
Getting to Sensoji Temple
The temple is directly near Asakusa Station, on the Tobu Railway, Asakusa Subway Line and Ginza Subway Line. From Tokyo Station, take the JR Yamanote Line and change to the Ginza Line at Kanda Station. From Shinjuku Station, take the JR Chuo Line (orange) and change to the Ginza Line at Kanda Station.
Opening Hours/Admission Fees
Free Admission. The temple grounds themselves are open 24/7, and the Main Hall is open between 6:00 and 17:00 (from 6:30 between October and March).
The Asakusa district is a popular choice for many who visit Tokyo on a budget. Compared with some of the surrounding metropolitan areas, there is a wide choice of relatively inexpensive hotels here, including the traditional-style Japanese inns known as Ryokan. Prices are lower because the district is slightly further out from the center of the city. However, many people find that the saving is completely worth it. To get to Tokyo station, simply take the Ginza subway line to Kando station, and then change to the JR Yamanote Line.