The Senso-ji under the magnifying glass 浅草寺の秘密

Sacred secrets

The Senso-ji is one of the essential visits to the Japanese capital. It must be said that the majestic Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) adorned with its gigantic lantern, the Nakamise-dori shopping street, the Hozomon (treasure room gate), the pagoda, and the hondo have something to seduce visitors. But whether you are a regular or you are going there for the first time, you may miss certain small details that are nevertheless rich in meaning.

1. Komagatado

This somewhat special visit to Senso-ji begins away from it! Just a few minutes from the gleaming complex, there is a small temple of oh so important historical value: the Komagatadô.

It is established at the exact spot where the golden statue of Kannon, the origin of Senso-ji, was discovered. In 628, Hamanari and Takenai Hinokuma, two brothers fishing in the waters of the Sumida River, brought up in their net the precious sculpture to which a temple was quickly dedicated. The Komagatado, founded in the 10th century, commemorates this discovery.

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The Komagatado

Douglas P. Perkins

Since 1960, the Japanese firm has offered a new lantern to Senso-ji every ten years, according to the wishes of Konosuke Matsushita (1894-1989), its founder.

It was on this date that the Kaminarimon, destroyed by fire in 1895, was rebuilt. The businessman was solicited by the chief priest who was looking for financial support. Particularly sensitive to the widest possible dissemination of Japanese culture, Matsushita commits his firm to the restoration of this priceless heritage.

From then on, Panasonic entrusted the realization of the gigantic chôchin to the Kyoto workshop Takahashi Chôchin Kabushiki Kaisha. The current lantern, installed in November 2013, is the 5th lantern sponsored by Panasonic.

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Several inscriptions on the lantern attest to the filiation with the firm Panasonic

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Dragon carved under the lantern

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The huge lantern knows how to be more discreet when necessary

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This haiku then immortalized the "time bells" scattered around the city that informed all the citizens of Edo of the time by ringing six times a day.

Know that the bell of time or toki no kane of Asakusa, located in the enclosure of Senso-ji, always rings!

Installed on a small hill where the Bentendre also sits, a small temple dedicated to Benzaiten, the bell is now heard only at 6 am.

If you are not very early in the morning, only one other opportunity to listen to the pure sound of the toki no kane is offered to you: to attend the New Year celebration ceremony on December 31st.

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Senso-ji Time Bell

Alpha / Flickr

Today, an engraved stele also marks the original location of the building.

But the history of the Senso-ji pagoda is much more complex than it seems. Ancient sources indeed mention the existence of two pagodas from the 10th century: one, 5 stories high to the east, and the other 3 stories to the west. Both were destroyed by a fire at the beginning of the 17th century.

In 1648, Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu only ordered the reconstruction of the 5-story tower. The pagoda will then remain in the east for another 400 years.

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Stele marking the location of the original pagoda

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5. Sacred dances

In addition to the multiple rebuilding of its buildings, Senso-ji has given new life since the 1960s to traditional dances that have sometimes fallen into oblivion.

Notable among these is the golden dragon dance or kinryu no mai. Celebrated every March 18 and October 18, this dance features the dragon who is said to have fallen from the sky into the pine forest of Asakusa shortly after the discovery of the statue of Kannon in the waters of the sumidagawa.

To handle the colossal dragon, 18 meters long and weighing 88 kg, eight carriers are needed!

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Senso-ji kinryu no mai

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Dance of the White Herons

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Address, timetable & access

  • Address

  • Timetable

    Get off at Asakusa Station of Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Tobu Isesaki Line, Toei Asakusa Line
  • Price

    Free
  • Access

    Open daily from 6 am to 5 pm.

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