World Travel GuidesAsakusa Kannon (Sensoji), Tokyo

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Sensoji Temple, Tokyo, Japan
by 663highland,, used under GNU Free Documentation License

The Sensoji, often known in guide books as the Asakusa Kannon Temple, is the oldest and most popular temple in Tokyo. It is located in Asakusa, in Taito-ku, one of the 23 wards that form the metropolitan area of Tokyo. Next to it is the Shinto shrine of Asakusa Jinja. The temple is dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon, which is known in Chinese as Kuan Yin or Guan Yin, and in English as the Goddess of Mercy, and is derived from the bodhisatva Avalokitesvara that originates in India.

According to legend, the statue of the Kannon was found in the Sumida River in the year 628AD by two fishermen, brothers Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari. Their village chief turn his own home into a shrine, and placed the statue there for the villagers to worship it. Soon the reputation of the Kannon spread throughout the country and devotees flocked to the temple to venerate the statue. Although the statue is kept here, it is not shown to the public. The first temple was completed in 645, giving it the earliest date of a temple in Tokyo.

Although a Buddhist temple, the Sensoji is the site for Tokyo's largest and most popular Shinto festival, the Sanja Matsuri. It takes place in late spring, spread over 3-4 days, during which the streets around the temple is closed to traffic.

At the entrance to the Sensoji is the Kaminari Mon, or "Thunder Gate". It holds a huge paper lantern painted in dramatic red and black to suggest thunderclouds and lightning. Passing it is the Nakamise, a shopping arcade of about 200m, lined with shops selling traditional (and not so traditional) souvenirs. This leads to the Hozo Mon, or second gate. Beyond it stands the main temple building while to the left is a five storey 48m high pagoda.

Next to the Sensoji is the Asakusa Jinja, a Shinto shrine built by Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1649 in honour of the three men who established the Sensoji Temple, namely the two fishermen Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari, and the village headman who built the temple, Haji no Nakatomo.

Where in the world is Sensoji Temple?

Map of Japan showing location of Sensoji Temple

How to go to Sensoji Temple

Subway trains are available from the Ginza Subway Line, Asakusa Subway Line, Tsukuba Express and Tobu Railways. From Tokyo Station, take the JR Yamanote Line to Kanda Station (2 min, 130 yen), then transfer to the Ginza Subway Line for Asakusa (10 min, 160 yen). From Shinjuku Station, take the orange JR Chuo Line to Kanda Station (10 min, 160 yen) and transfer to the Ginza Subway Line.

Visiting the Sensoji Temple

The Sensoji Temple is open daily from 6:00am to 5:00pm, and admission is free.

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