Yasu would probably have preferred to just take it easy today and head on home on time, especially after two days of hard work (standing in long lines at the Disney parks), but I figured this was probably my last time in Tokyo ever, so I wanted to some more sightseeing. And being the good boyfriend that he is Yasu accompanied me to Asakusa without complaint, to visit the famous ancient Buddhist temple, named Senso-ji. It’s Tokyo’s oldest temple built in 645 and it’s dedicated to Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy.Dominating the entrance to the temple is the Kaminarimon or ‘Thunder Gate’, featuring a massive paper lantern dramatically painted in vivid red-and-black tones to suggest thunderclouds and lightning. And apparently, we weren’t the only people who decided to visit the temple today...
Beyond the gate is Nakamise-dori, the 250 m. street leading to Senso-ji, lined with 89 small shops selling souvenirs and traditional sweets. Yasu introduced me to some of his favorite Japanese sweets. Like little balls of warabimochi covered in soybean powder on sticks, which had a lot more taste than the warabimochi in Kyoto. Ningyoyaki, which tastes like pancake on the outside and like sweet red bean paste on the inside, kind of like dorayaki, which was so-so. Soft senbei on a stick, which was crunchy on the outside and way too soft and sticky on the inside, I really didn’t like it. And my favorite was goma agemanju, which is deepfried rice cake with black sesame and red bean paste on the inside, which was really good.
At the end of Nakamise-dori we found the Hozomon or ‘Treasure House Gate’ which is the entrance to the inner complex of Senso-ji. This gate features three large lanterns, a huge red one in between two copper lanterns weighing about 1000 kg each. On the back of the gate are two wariji (straw sandals) large enough to fit a giant.
In the actual inner complex of Senso-ji we admired a five-story pagoda, a Japanese garden and of course the main temple hall, with loads of people throwing lucky 5 yen coins into a pit, a.k.a. the temple’s bank account, for the priviledge to pray in front of it. Like every Japanese temple there also a incense burning place, where people try to inhale the smoke in order to become smarter, healthier or something like that.
Trying the Japanese sweets was interesting, but exploring the temple grounds... Maybe I’ve been spoilt by too many visits to Kyoto, Nara and Koyasan, but it’s kind of like: seen one temple, seen all of them.