The temple in Asakusa consists of a variety of shops for tourists, three towering gates, a five-story pagoda, a separate shrine, and the main temple. Originally, the temple had been built in the 600’s, but following WWII and the massive fires in Tokyo, the temple had been destroyed and rebuilt to model the original structure. It is located within about a minute from the Asakusa main station and is surrounded by restaurants and other tourist attractions.
Each gate has a large, lantern shaped object hanging from the center and two statues on either side of the entrance. As you can see, the gates are no ordinary, plain structures. Instead they are immense, carefully crafted woodwork that required nothing short of a team of highly skilled individuals. The colors of most temples are kept plain to show the beauty of the wood, however it is not uncommon for gateways to be decorated with gold and red colors.
The second gate was much like the first. The words written on the lantern are, 風雪神門, 平成十五年八月百日. It sounds as if it’s referring to a snowstorm in August, 2003, but Japan doesn’t see a lot of snow until December or later so obviously there’s a word I’m not translating right. 風雪 can also mean hardships, so I’ll go with that. One hundred days worth of hardship starting in August, 2003.
On the way, lining the streets to the main temple are a series of shops. They sell souvenirs and at this time of year are decorated with New Years colors. They sell foods, snacks, fans, masks, swords, keychains and anything else typically sold as a gift.
Finally arriving at the main temple, we hurried to the line formed in front since the wind that day was not so friendly. The closer you were, the more impossible it was to take pictures of the massive structure. At the entrance was another lantern, followed by a golden plaque, and inside there was a place to throw a coin and say a prayer.
The inside of a temple is always stunning. Gold gleaming, statues of all shapes and sizes, chandeliers and lanterns hanging from the ceiling, flowers, banners, foods, and other offerings. The colors are beautiful, but the crowd made it difficult to capture.
People take prayer very seriously. Although this temple is easily accessible, the journey to each temple is not always so easy. Many famous temples are structured on a mountain or in a remote area which may cause people to focus on their prayers more carefully. Some people take 5-10 seconds, others stand for a minute or two with their eyes closed and hands together, focused on their thoughts.
Last but not least, you can see Sky Tree, the largest structure in Japan, from Asakusa Temple, but that’s another trip.