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The Two Faces of Asakusa

I stayed in Sakura Hostel-Asakusa for the first five days of my Japan trip. Not only my hostel was affordable and accessible, I also had the privilege of staying near Tokyo’s oldest temple: Sensoji Temple. Sensoji is considered as one of the significant structures in Tokyo which symbolizes Buddhism and  rebirth.

 The legend behind the origins of the temple can be traced back in 628. It has been said that one morning in 628, two fishermen, brothers Hinokuma Hamanari and Takenari found a statue of Bodhisattava Kannon while they were fishing.  The village chief recognized the sanctity of the statue and remodeled his house to enshrine the deity.


Among many Buddhist deities, Bodhisattva Kannon is known to be the most compassionate. She is said to relieve patrons from their suffering and respond to their prayers with benevolence.

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The temple was mostly destroyed during air raids in World War II.  The damaged Kannon-do, Kaminarimon and other parts of the temple were then rebuilt with the help of donations  from all over the country.

Sensoji is also home to valuable artifacts such as paintings and a five-story pagoda tower, which reputedly houses the ashes of Buddha.

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Clearly, the temple complex is one of the most popular destinations in Tokyo. Each day thousands of tourists flock to worship in the temple or shop around Nakamise. Honestly, the sense of tranquility is lost during the peak hours wherein the temple is quite crowded.

However, you will be surprised with the difference at night.

I  go home late at night, I usually arrive at Asakusa around 10 PM or 11 PM. By then, there are no one within the temple complex. Sometimes, I just sit in the stairs and ponder. It’s surprising that nobody visits the temple at night.

Tranquil and silent, it is like Sensoji is in full bloom during evenings.

IMG_0561IMG_0347IMG_0349IMG_0352IMG_0371One of the good things about Asakusa is majority of the tourists sights are just walking distance from each other.

IMG_0363The Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate) is the outer gate that leads to the Sensō-ji and Nakamise Dori. The gate displays the statues of Shinto gods:  Fujin, the god of wind and Raijin, the god of thunder.

IMG_0379The Hozomon is the inner gate which leads to Sensoji’s Kannon Hall. This two-story houses two statues which represent Nio, the guardian of Buddha and three lanterns, with the red chochin hanging under the center of the gate’s entrance.

While in the area, take time to browse or shop for souvenirs in Nakamise-dori.

IMG_0529IMG_0530IMG_0531Nakamise-dori is a 250 m long shopping block wherein you can buy traditional Japanese goods. Nakamise Dori is also one of the oldest shopping streets in Japan. Some shops are said to have originated as early as the Edo period. Some shops in here have been successfully run by the same family for generations since the 17th century.

More than 80 shops on the street sells souvenirs such as Japanese chopsticks, clothing, dolls, charms, ceramics and folding fans. This is also a good place to try Japanese streetfood.

IMG_0533IMG_0541IMG_0537IMG_0541Various restaurants , specialty and craft shops can also be found in Shin Nakamise ( New Nakamise), a covered shopping arcade next to Nakamise-dori.IMG_0568IMG_0526

 Asakusa is just one of the place wherein you could feel like you are back in Edo period. Although crowded by the day, it is certainly lovely at night.

As my hostel is tucked in the middle of Asakusa, I kept on getting on lost and every night, I took on a different route. But even though this was the case (or even the case in the future), I  will never mind being constantly lost in a place as lovely as this.

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