Senso-ji is an ancient Buddhist temple in Tokyo. It is a popular destination for both the Japanese and foreign tourists, and can be very crowded at times. This article will provide photos of some highlights of Senso-ji, along with tips those considering a visit.
According to legend, in the year 628, two brothers, Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari, fished a statue of the goddess of mercy (Kannon) out of the Sumida River. The brothers put the statue back, but it kept returning to them. Recognizing the sanctity of Kannon, the chief of their village, Hajino Nakamoto, enshrined the statue by remodeling his own house into a small temple around Kannon. The first temple was completed in 645, making it Tokyo’s oldest temple.
The outer gate of the temple is called the Kaminarimon, which guests enter through. The next gate, the Hozomon, is about separated from the outer gate about a small street known as Nakamise, which is lined with merchants selling traditional goods. Beyond the Hozomon is the main temple of the Senso-ji, along with a five-story pagoda. The Asakusa Shrine is also located near here.
Over time, Senso-ji has been expanded to grow to its current size. Almost all of Senso-ji temple has been reconstructed after being destroyed in World War II. Don’t be surprised to see some refurbishments occurring during your visit–these are minor cosmetic things to keep the site looking beautiful.
We highly recommend visiting Senso-ji temple. While we preferred some of the temples in Kyoto, Senso-ji is a breathtaking sight that is well worth the time it takes to visit.
As mentioned above, Senso-ji can be very busy, as it is one of the most popular temples in Tokyo. We recommend visiting as early as possible in the day. We visited at 8 a.m., and crowds were quite low at this time. By the time we left at 10 a.m., it was quite busy. We’ve seen photos from midday and weekends with almost wall-to-wall people.
We recommend dedicating about one to two hours to exploring the Senso-ji temple site. There are a variety of buildings, small shops, and a traditional Japanese garden here. The footprint of the Senso-ji temple is not that large (relative to some other temple sites) and can easily be seen on foot. The surrounding neighborhood is also worth exploring on foot.
Admission to the Senso-ji temple is free, and the temple is open year round. We recommend taking cash with you to the temple for the purchase of things in the shops around the temple, many of which operate on a cash-only basis. Although these shops are neat, guests will want to spend the majority of their time exploring the main hall and the Asakusa Shrine, as well as the gardens surrounding it. Minimal time should be spent in the shopping area.
There are also several omikuji stalls which allow visitors to consult the oracle for divine answers to their questions for a small donation. From what we could gather, it was considered appropriate for Westerners to participate in this practice, and it was a worthwhile part of the experience, regardless of one’s beliefs.
Senso-ji Temple is visible from Asakusa Station (it will require almost no effort to find as soon as you leave the station), which is served by the Ginza Subway Line, Asakusa Subway Line, and Tobu Railways. It is accessible via transfer from a number of the JR lines.
Overall, how much of a priority you should place on visiting Senso-ji Temple depends largely upon your other plans while visiting Japan. If you’re spending the bulk or entirety of your time in Tokyo, it’s highly recommended, as there are few experiences quite like this there. Conversely, if you’re taking the Shinkansen to Kyoto, you will find a treasure trove of experiences comparable to this, most of which will have lower crowd levels and substantively more to offer.
If you’re planning a visit to Tokyo, Japan, please check out my other posts about Tokyo for ideas of things to do (or not do) while there. Tokyo has a lot of things to see and do, so I also highly recommend the Lonely Planet Japan Guide to help better develop an efficient plan while there.
Have you visited Senso-ji Temple? What did you think of it? Is it on your list of places to visit in Tokyo? Any other thoughts or tips for visiting? Have any questions or comments about Senso-ji Temple? Please share them in the comments!