Thursday, November 20, 2008

Japan '08: Asakusa

Kaminari Mon, the main gate leading into the temple complex and shopping arcade at Asakusa.

Probably the most famous temple and associated cultural sites in Tokyo are located in Asakusa, in the northeastern part of the city, not far from where we stayed in Hongou. The main attraction, Senso-ji Buddhist Temple, was destroyed in World War II, but rebuilt in the 1950s. Throughout October and up to November 25, they are having special celebrations to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the re-dedication of the temple.

Larger temples and shrines in Japan tend to have touristy commercial districts associated with them. The Nakamise shopping arcade inside of Kaminari Mon, along the street leading to Senso-ji, is especially extravagant. You can get a pretty decent lunch by hitting the food stalls, then shop for o-miyage (souvenirs). I bought some reproduction old fashioned money from the Nakamise Association booth, which technically could have been used like cash at Association businesses, though it seemed a shame to spend it.

Nakamise money and my fortune from Senso-ji.

Omikuji at Senso-ji Temple yielded kichi (good fortune), which is almost the best outcome. It seems to me that omikuji has a strong bias towards more or less happy fortunes; I've done it a bunch of times and never gotten one of the variations on kyou (curse or bad luck). It's too bad, because if you get kyou, you can engage in another odd little temple/shrine activity: folding up the paper and tying it to a branch or wire frame on the temple grounds, in order to undo the fortune.

Alter inside of the main hall at Senso-ji.

We visited Asakusa on a weekday, but things were still incredibly busy; the crowd was 10 people deep around the main devotional area in Senso-ji.

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