sights / Religious

Sensō-ji information

Tokyo , Japan
2-3-1 Asakusa
+81 3 3842 0181
Getting there
Subway: Ginza line to Asakusa, exit 1
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Tokyo’s most visited temple enshrines a golden image of Kannon (the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy), which, according to legend, was miraculously pulled out of the nearby Sumida-gawa by two fishermen in AD 628. The image has remained on the spot ever since; the present structure dates from 1958. Entrance to the temple complex is via the fantastic, red Kaminari-mon (雷門; Thunder Gate).

Through the gate, protected by Fūjin (the god of wind) and Raijin (the god of thunder), is Nakamise-dōri , the temple precinct’s shopping street. Here everything from tourist trinkets to genuine Edo-style crafts is sold. At the end of Nakamise-dōri is the temple itself, and to your left you’ll spot the 55m Five-storey Pagoda (五重塔). It’s a 1973 reconstruction of a pagoda built by Tokugawa Iemitsu and is even more picturesque at night, all lit up.

It’s a mystery as to whether or not the ancient image of Kannon actually exists, as it’s not on public display. This doesn’t stop a steady stream of worshippers from visiting. In front of the temple is a large incense cauldron: the smoke is said to bestow health and you’ll see people rubbing it into their bodies through their clothes.

At the eastern edge of the temple complex is Asakusa-jinja (浅草神社), a shrine built in honour of the brothers who discovered the Kannon statue that inspired the construction of Sensō-ji. (Historically, Japan's two religions, Buddhism and Shintō were intertwined and it was not uncommon for temples to include shrines and vice versa). The current building, painted a deep shade of red, dates to 1649 and is a rare example of early-Edo architecture. It's also the epicentre of one of Tokyo’s most important festivals, May’s Sanja Matsuri.