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    Sensoji Temple, also known as Asakusa Temple, is Tokyo‘s oldest and most popular temple. Sensoji Temple features a pair grand gates with large red paper lanterns, a pagoda and a large main hall.

    Sensoji Temple (金龍山浅草寺, Kinryū-zan Sensōji) is an ancient Buddhist temple located in Asakusa district, hence why it is sometimes referred to as Asakusa Temple. The temple is said to have been established in 628AD after Hinokuma Hamanari and his brother Takenari hauled in a statue of Bodhisattva Kannon in their fishing net. However it was Haji no Nakatomo, the head of the then village of Asakusa, that recognised the significance of the find. He then took vows of a Buddhist priest and spent the rest of his life dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon, including converting his home into a temple.

    Hondo, the main hall Sensoji Temple

    Hondo, the main hall Sensoji Temple

    Sensoji Temple Features

    There are several key buildings and parts of the Sensoji Temple complex, each with its own extensive history, but all worth spending some time viewing and understanding their significance.

    Hozomon Gate

    Hozomon Gate is a sanmon or main gate that stands in front of the main path to a Buddhist temple’s main hall or hondo, in this case Sensoji Temple. Today’s Hozomon Gate is a double story structure with the lower story featuring a three sections for people to pass through with the center section featuring a massive red paper lantern.

    Hozomon gate of Sensoji Temple with the large red paper lantern

    Hozomon gate of Sensoji Temple with the large red paper lantern

    Massive Paper Lantern Hozomon Gate Sensoji Temple

    Massive Paper Lantern Hozomon Gate Sensoji Temple

    The original Hozomon Gate, also known as the Niomon Gate, is believed to have been constructed around the same time of the Kaminarimon Gate in 942AD by the military commander Taira no Kinmasa. Taira no Kinmasa was praying at in the hope that he might become the lord of Musahi Province, the area which is now covered by Tokyo city. When his prayers were answered, he built the Hozomon Gate. The original gate and several reconstructions were destroyed by fire over the years. In December 1649 a new gate was reconstructed by the third Edo shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu, which survived until the firebombing in March 1945.

    Kaminari-mon Gate

    Kaminari-mon Gate, also known as the Furaijinmon Gate or Thunder Gate is the original temple gate, which was constructed in 942AD by Taira no Kinmasa, a military commander. Kaminarimon Gate was originally located to the south of Sensoji Temple in Komagata. It was relocated during the Kamakura Period to its current position as the outer gate to the south of main hall where it can be seen from the street. It was at this time that the two statues, Fujin (wind god) and Raijin (thunder god) were installed on either side of the gate creating a single entrance way through the gate.

    Kaminari Gate, Kaminarimon, of Sensoji Temple

    Kaminari Gate, Kaminarimon, of Sensoji Temple

    The original gate was destroyed in massive fire of December 1865. 95 years later the current Kaminarimon Gate with its large red paper lantern, dramatically painted in vivid red-and-black tones to suggest thunderclouds and lightning, was reconstructed by Konosuke Matsushita, founder of Matsushita Electric (as in the Panasonic Brand).

    Nakamise-dori

    Nakamise-dori is the path or small closed street between Kaminari-mon Gate and the Hondo (main hall) of Sensoji Temple which is lined with stalls selling souvenirs (omiyage) including robes, yukata, fans, Buddhist scrolls and food. While you may think that this is modern commercialism, it isn’t. There have been stalls operating in Nakamise Dori for hundreds of years.

    Stall along Nakamise-dori Sensoji Temple

    Stall along Nakamise-dori Sensoji Temple

    Gojunoto – Five Story Pagoda

    Today’s Five Story Pagoda was reconstructed in 1973 after the pagoda built in 1648 by Tokugawa Iemitsu was destroyed in firebombing of March 1945. The 1648 Five Storied Pagoda had been declared a National Treasure in 1911. The original Sensoji Temple Five Story Pagoda was constructed at the same time as the main hall by the military commander Taira no Kinmasa in 942AD. Today’s pagoda includes an additional room for the storage of mortuary tablets, while the relics, which are said to include some of Buddha’s ashes, are kept on the top level.

    Gojunoto - Five Story Pagoda Sensoji Temple

    Gojunoto – Five Story Pagoda Sensoji Temple

    Nitenmon Gate

    Nitenmon Gate is the oldest significant structure on the Sensoji Temple site dating back to 1618 and has been declared an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese Government. Originally the Nitenmon Gate was the gate for the Tosho-gu Shrine that was located within the Sensoji Temple site. The Nitenmon Gate survived the 1642 fire that destroyed many buildings including the Tosho-gu Shrine. Each side of the gate contains a protective Buddhist deity: Zochoten (left) and Jikokuten (right). Nitenmon Gate is located on the eastern side of the Hondo (main hall).

    Dempoin

    Dempoin is the residence of the head priest of Sensoji Temple. Dempoin features a Japanese garden with a pond and encircling path which is a design similar to the Katsura Imperial Villa inKyoto. The garden, which covers around 12,200 square meters, was created in the early 17th century by the tea master Kobori Enshu. The Dempoin complex includes several buildings including the Kyakuden where guests are received (1777) and Ojoin, a library and school room (1871). The complex is not normally open to the public.

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    1 Review on “Sensoji Temple”

    1. Profile photo of Craig FryerCraig Fryer Post authorSensoji Temple
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      Sensoji Temple is really one of those must see places in Tokyo. Sensoji Temple is often crowded, so think about taking a mono pod for you camera to raise it above the crowd, or if you must use your selfie stick to do the same with a mobile phone.

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