Senso-ji temple in Asakusa 浅草寺
Senso-ji, le plus vieux temple de Tokyo
Situé dans le quartier d’Asakusa à Tokyo, non loin de la rivière Sumida, le temple bouddhiste Senso-ji est particulièrement apprécié des Japonais mais suscite également l’intérêt des touristes. Partez à la découverte de cet imposant et incontournable site culturel japonais.
Senso-ji and the goddess Kannon
The Senso-ji temple in Asakusa is dedicated to the Buddhist goddess Kannon .
Kannon, a boddhisattva (a being who has reached the state of enlightenment but who has chosen to suspend her status as a Buddha), is very popular in Japan because she embodies compassion. If at the base, Kannon (whose original name is Guanyin, Kannon being the Japanese version) is male, this boddhisattva is worshiped in its female form in Japan and China.
The temple is very popular with Tokyoites who attach great importance to Kannon. The Senso-ji in itself is imposing since it is erected in the center of a Buddhist complex whose enclosure encompasses entire streets of the Asakusa district.
Senso-ji temple and its doors
The temple was founded in 645, after two brothers found a statuette of Kannon in the waters of the Sumida River.
The current Senso-ji is a reconstruction from 1958 , the original having been destroyed during the American bombing raids of WWII on March 10, 1945. Everything was rebuilt identically, with more solid materials (the roof of the main building is today in titanium). In addition, major renovations took place in 2016 and 2017: today, the temple, its pagoda and its two doors shine brightly, even at night. With its very traditional character and impressive size, Senso-ji is a Tokyo classic, popular with tourists and Japanese alike.
The entrance to the shrine is made up of an impressive portal, the Kaminarimon ("Thunder Gate"), from which hangs the largest red paper lantern in Japan, which weighs no less than 700 kg . This large gate, installed on the main avenue of the Asakusa district, marks the entrance to the sanctuary. The crowd is often compact!
At the end of this alley, you will be able to see the monumental door which is the Hozomon ("Door of the treasure room"). It houses two large statues of Nio, traditional guardians of Japanese Buddhism, sporting a threatening face and responsible for preventing demons from entering the place. The Japanese have a habit of touching their oversized pilgrim sandals, the o-waraji, which are said to bring good luck and happiness.
The hondô (main building) can then be discovered, shining, and preceded by a large censer, the jokoro. The faithful have the habit of "bathing" in the smoke of incense, supposed to have a therapeutic power. To the left of the hondô stands the recently renovated 5-storey pagoda.
Once reached the main building of the temple, the room known as "of the goddess" ( Kannon-do ), at the top of a flight of steps, it is respectful to bow in front of the altar and to join his hands then to deposit in a trunk a coin, an obolus in homage to Kannon. The statue of the goddess who gave her fame to the Senso-ji temple is however not visible and rests in the "treasure room", which only clerics can access.
Visit the Nakamise-dori
The visitor then discovers an open-air shopping alley, often crowded with tourists, which stretches for nearly 250 meters. This is the Nakamise-dori, where there are souvenir stands, traditional objects and sweets to enjoy on the go. You will find everything there, in a happy swarm where you have to know how to elbows: Japanese fabrics, souvenirs, toys, chimes and lanterns, clothes, umbrellas, teapots ... but also street food and pastries that allow you to discover Japanese gastronomy. Do not miss to taste a Ningyo-yaki, this typical Asakusa cake, filled with red bean paste and molded in typical shapes (especially in the shape of a pagoda!).
At the end of this alley, the monumental is visible, the Hozomon (door of the treasure room), impressive with its two statues of Nio, the guardian of the Buddha, and its two oversized pilgrim's sandals, the o-waraji, bringing luck and happiness to those who touch them.
Must-see around Senso-ji temple
The interest in Senso-ji is not only in the main hall but also in the five-story pagoda visible to the left of the temple, the second highest in Japan after that of Toji temple, south of Kyoto .
The unknown Asakusa-jinja temple to the right of the main hall is also the theater of the country's most famous Shinto festival, the Sanja Matsuri. Another marvel of Senso-ji, slightly out of the way and a haven of tranquility, the Japanese garden of the temple, behind the pagoda, is an adequate stage to escape the crowds and get lost in the contemplation of the carp in the artificial pond.
The Senso-ji, its doors and its pagoda are also revealed at nightfall, when beautiful illuminations appear (until 11 p.m.), suitable for splendid photos.
Yu can also climb to the top of the Tourist Office (which is in front of the first door, the Kaminarimon) to enjoy a beautiful view of the shopping artery, the Senso-ji, but also of the Tokyo Skytree.
- To read also : The Tôshô-gû shrine
Address, timetable & access
TimetableAsakusa station on the Ginza, Isesaki and Asakusa Toei lines
AccessOpen every day from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. At 6 a.m., 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. religious ceremonies take place