Exploring Senso-Ji in Asakusa

Exploring Senso-Ji in Asakusa

Senso-Ji in Asakusa is Tokyo’s largest and most popular Buddhist temple with over 30 million visitors coming to visit this temple annually. Also known as the Asakusa Kannon temple, it’s the biggest tourist destination in Tokyo and worth visiting because of its history, the complex of colorful temples, shops, gardens and public buildings that give you an insight of Senso-Ji from its historic past and present day. This is also a wonderful opportunity to visit and witness the rituals of different traditional to contemporary Buddhist customs and lifestyle in Tokyo. The large area where the temple grounds are located are easy to navigate starting with the street entry to the outer gate area in the front and followed by the vendor stalls with souvenir stands where you can find local treats and temple offerings called the Nakamise Dori.  The stalls are fun for visitors and locals to sample some of the local treats, seasonal special goods or to pick up an inexpensive gift or souvenir from the many stands on your way to the main temple hall called the Hondo.



Incense cleansing prior to entering the temple grounds


Exploring Senso-Ji in Asakusa

Views of the 5 story pagoda and the Hozomon Gate

Senso-Ji was built in 645, making it the oldest temple in Tokyo. It was dedicated to the goddess Kannon, who is the goddess of Mercy. Legend has it that two fishermen from the area where fishing in the Sumida river and pulled up a statue of the Kannon and placed it back in the river but always returned back to them. The temple was then built nearby and dedicated to the goddess of Kannon.

Before you enter the main temple grounds, you first pass through the imposing gate of the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), which is the outer gate of the temple and is also the symbol used to represent Asakusa and the city of Tokyo. You then pass through the Nakamise dori or the shopping street and then through the inner gate or Hozomon which finally leads to the inside area where the Hondo or main hall and pagoda tower are located.




Buddhist temple of Senso-Ji - Best places to photograph Tokyo


Traditional kimono at Senso-Ji


Visitors in Kimono at Senso-Ji, Visiting Senso-Ji in Asakusa



Water purification fountain

Prior to entering the temple grounds, worshippers go to the fountain to wash their hands and mouth with the water to symbolize being cleansed and ready to enter the temple.




Water purification at Senso - Ji, Exploring Senso-Ji in Asakusa

Water purification at Senso – Ji


Entering the main temple stairs to Senso-Ji

The large Hondo or main hall and 5 story pagoda are located right after entering the 2nd gate or Hozomon Gate. These two grand structures were destroyed during the war and then rebuilt to exacting standards. There is still the intact Asakusa Shrine to the left of the main hall that was built in 1649 by the Tokugawa Iemitsu. For those interested in receiving a fortune from the temple, you visit a o-mikuji stall, for 100 donation,  you can consult the oracles with a guide who will shake some labeled sticks in a can and tell you your fortune. (You will need an interpreter to do this). If you receive a bad fortune, you can tie these to the racks outside to take away that bad fortune. Behind the main front altar area is the hidden Kannon that worshippers come to visit and pay homage.


The entrances to Senso-Ji, Exploring Senso-Ji in Asakusa


The entry of Senso-Ji and the coin box

Worshippers stop at the entry and coin box to drop some coins, clap their hands twice and bow twice before saying a short prayer prior to entering the main hall.  There are other rituals that happen inside the temple that includes more incense offerings, clappings, bowings and other protocols that are fascinating to observe but unknown to a non-practicing visitor to this holy Buddhist temple.


Entering the main temple of Senso-Ji in Askakusa, Tokyo


Temple details and intricate carvings


Temple details at Senso-Ji, Visiting Senso-Ji in Asakusa


Lantern displays at Senso-Ji


Lantern details at Senso-Ji, Visiting Senso-Ji in Asakusa

Beautiful water features at Senso-Ji




Water features at Senso-Ji in Asakusa, Tokyo





Nakamise dori - Exploring Senso-Ji in Asakusa

The vendor stalls at Senso-Ji

Before you enter the main temple grounds and second interior gate, you pass through the colorful Nakamise, which is a shopping street filled with vendors selling souvenirs, local snacks and foods and other cheap gift items. Vendors sell specialty foods and snacks that are either made on the premisys or in the neighborhood and you can also sample many of the snacks that are being sold by the vendors, many are sweeet and also savory delicacies. Popular takeaways include the Soy rice crackers, Agemanju (battered and deep fried soft cake filled with red bean paste) and Ningyoyaki (cake with red bean paste filling). Just to the side streets of Nakamise are a variety of other shops, cafes and eateries for those that want to stay and enjoy a wonderful meal nearby.


Tasting free samples from the Cracker vendors


The vendor stalls at Senso-Ji - Visiting Senso-Ji in Asakusa

Exploring the streets around Asakusa

The streets surrounding Senso-Ji and Asakusa are wonderful to explore and filled with shops and galleries along with plenty of restaurants to check out for a nice Japanese meal.  Also close by is the large Tokyo Skytree tower which is the tallest structure in Japan. You can visit the upper observatories at the Skytree for a nominal charge to view some spectacular views of the entire city below.


Asakusa district - Best places to photograph Tokyo Japan

Tips to visiting Senso – Ji temple

The temple is free and open to the public to visit

Visiting hours are 6-5pm (April – September), 6:30 –  pm (September – March)

Temple grounds are always open

You can easily get to the temple by Metro to the Asakusa station with a short walk to the entrance

The main hall and gates are illuminated from sunset to 11pm and offers fantastic night photography

This is a holy temple so please be respectful of the area and worshippers


Thanks for visiting this post about Exploring Senso-Ji in Asakusa. If you enjoyed the images and post, could you please share it with any of the social media buttons located around the post. I have just posted about some of my favorite photography spots in Tokyo worth visiting, please check out my post below for some great tips of places in the city you need to see to capture some great shots of the city.

Tops places to photograph in Tokyo, Japan

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