Sensoji Temple

Another day, another Buddhist temple. On our one day off in Tokyo we visited Sensoji, a Buddhist temple in the Asakusa district. This large temple was completed in 645 and is the oldest in all of Tokyo.

After passing under the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) and its huuuge lantern you are assaulted by a bunch of vendors hawking crappy souvenirs. Of course they’re crappy Japanese souvenirs so I found myself powerless to resist. I ended up only buying a small cup of a warm, unfiltered rice drink. It was kind of like drinking rice pudding so I was in heaven.

It was hard to pass up the opportunity to take pictures of burning swastikas. The swastika, known as manji (“the Chinese character for eternity”) in Japanese, was everywhere in Japan. It was a little strange at first but considering that the swastika was used for a least a few thousand years by peaceful religions it seemed a shame that a single crazy man (and a few million of his countrymen) could so change the meaning and association of the symbol in such a short period of time.

ANYWAY, the incense pictured here are burned before entering the temple. They feature the left-facing swastika (omote manji) representing love and mercy. The people burning them would wave the smoke over their hair and faces, the traditional belief that the smoke has healing powers.

The main Sensoji temple building was absolutely massive. I was really taken aback by the size as you approached it. A celebrity of some sort was visiting that day. When we first walked up the stairs there was a huge crowd with bright lights and a camera trained on the guy. The life of a celebrity is always the same, I guess, no matter where you go.

The light was terrible that day so I’m not terribly happy with most of these shots. The pagoda, in particular, didn’t turn out terribly well. (There’s a great night shot of the pagoda on this site.) I am really happy with the end of the set, particularly the stone mother and children and the dragon at the Bell of Time.

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