Just about a year ago I was in Japan visiting a good friend. It was my first trip to Asia and created a lasting impression and love for Japanese culture. One of the most memorable parts for me was journeying to the Asakusa Temple where I got to experience a a throwback to old Japan. I spent an entire afternoon walking through the structure taking pictures and people-watching.
The temple’s actual name is Senso-ji. It’s Tokyo’s oldest temple and by far its best preserved. The first temple was built around 645 CE and the Nishinomiya Inari shrine is located right nearby too, making it one of the most “sacred” places in Japan. After being bombed in World War II, it was rebuilt.
It’s a bit touristy—you’ll find dozens of stalls crowded into the area where you can purchase souvenirs and typical Japanese cuisine. Personally, I enjoyed walking a bit away from the crowds and to a restaurant on the side streets where I had lunch. (It was extremely affordable.) However, I also had to have a bite or two of some of the delicious street food famous in this area.
One of the most interesting parts of this temple is the fact that because it is so large, you’re always going to run into something new. I walked around the premise for a few hours and found a little something different every time.
You’ll find an “old-fashioned” atmosphere. Rickshaw owners still frequent this spot and offer rides to tourists. I even caught a glimpse of some geisha walking through the area, advertising some company. If you are thinking about visiting a geisha for an afternoon, remember to be respectful. This is an art in the Japanese culture and goes back centuries.
You’ll also want to consider having your fortune read. I had mine checked out even though obviously I had no idea what it said. You might also want to purify yourself before entering the temple. DO NOT drink the water. (I mean, I totally did but you’re really not supposed to.) You take your ladle with your right hand and pour some water on your left. Switching hands, you then take a sip of water before spitting it out again.
This guide is super helpful if you are planning on heading to the Senso-ji temple and you want to know which events are going on. I had an amazing time and would definitely return, though I won’t drink any sacred water again.
Have you ever been to a temple in Asia? What was your experience?