A Colorful Temple Brimming With Activity

November 10, 2014 Dan Johnson

Meeting groups visiting Japan commonly are struck by the country’s magnificent temples, shrines and gardens. One well worth visiting is Senso-ji Temple (aka Asakusa Kannon Temple), located close to the Sumida River in the Asakusa District.

The oldest and most famous Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Senso-ji traces its origins to 628 A.D., when a golden statue of Kannon (Kwan Yin), the goddess of mercy, was fished out of the Sumida River by two brothers. According to legend, the brothers attempted to return the statue to the river, but it always returned to them, and in 645 A.D., a temple, dedicated to Kannon, was built around the statue. The temple’s buildings were almost all destroyed in World War II air raids on March 10, 1945 and were subsequently reconstructed.

After arriving at the temple grounds, groups enter through Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), which symbolizes Asakusa and the city of Tokyo. Groups then walk along a long, centuries-old shopping area featuring typical Japanese souvenirs such as folding fans and yukata (Japanese clothing garments) as well as many traditional Asakusa snacks.

At the end of the shopping area sits Hozomon Gate, which provides access to Senso-ji’s main hall and five pagodas. Asakusa Shrine, built in 1649, stands only a few dozen yards to the left of the temple’s main building.

Today, many events are held at and around the colorful temple, with the most famous being the annual Sanja Matsuri, held each May and one of Tokyo’s biggest three festivals. Other popular events are the Asakusa Samba Carnival in August and the Hagoita-ichi (Hagoita Market) in December, featuring the sale of decorated wooden paddles used in the traditional game of hanetsuki (similar to badminton, but played without a net).

The temple grounds are always open and no admission is charged. The main hall is open from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. October–March and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. April–September.

Read more about Japan’s temples—as well as shrines and gardens—in the December issue of Smart Meetings.

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