Favorite Places 2

This temple is so popular and famous that it is in virtually every single guide book of Japan that exists. At first I wasn't sure if I should have the temple in this section, as one of the objectives of this whole site is to help people get a glimpse of Japan from a different angle than they get from guide books or other web pages, but I just have to include it in this "favorite places" section because... well, this is one of my MOST favorite temples. Lots of people who are into visiting all sorts of shrines and temples might dismiss Sensoji as being too commercialized or too crowded with people all the time. Maybe that is true and I think this temple lacks serenity and solemnity - the quality that is often associated with religious buildings. I can't quite imagine myself spending a long time there sitting and letting myself become immersed in deep thoughts or anything like that. But still, I like the temple because of - among other things - the diversity of the visitors. I do like the little surprise that I get when I find out that people I assume are Japanese tourists turn out to be foreign visitors.

A local legend has it that Sensoji temple has existed since the year 628, when fishermen from the area pulled an image of the Buddhist goddess of mercy -Kannon - out of the sea in their nets and enshrined it there. It is the oldest temple in Tokyo and probably the most famous and popular one as well. It has a street in front of it, which is lined with many small shops selling all sorts of things from junk to treasures, from replica samurai swords to Japanese traditional sweets. This temple is a "must" if you ever get the chance to visit Tokyo.
This gate is called Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate). As Tokyo lacks structures of note such as the Statue of Liberty, this gate with its 4 meter tall paper lantern has served as one of the city's most popular icons. A picture of nakamise (shops in front of the temple are collectively called nakamise).
This is the main hall. A shot of the second gate, or inner gate, from the main hall.
Inside the main hall. I am sorry
this is not a good picture.
Tradition has it that if you put the incense on the part of the body that you have a problem with, it will heal it. I have been putting it on my headand face ever since I was little, but no improvement has been seen.
An alley behind the nakamise. This picture was taken in an attempt to show you a picture that has not been in any guide book, but it is not very impressive,is it?

Omikuji are fortunes written on slips of paper,sold at temples and shrines all over Japan. You shake a container (second from left) full of bamboo sticks and then remove one through the hole in the container. It has a number on it, and you take a corresponding slip of paper with fortune written on it from the drawers (middle). At other temples and shrines you simply put your hand in a box full of omikuji and draw one. Omikuji is said to have been imported from China in ancient times, and used as a message medium of the gods on such important occasions as business transactions and marriage. However, nowadays there are omikuji vending machines which, I think, takes all the mystery out of it.

People drawing omikuji.

Omikuji sold at Sensoji temple have English explanations as well as Japanese on the back, but that is very unusual. So if you ever feel like drawing omikuji and bringing it back home for a keepsake, here is some useful info. If your omikuji has Chinese characters (called kanji) that look like the ones at the far left then it means that you got the best one ,Daikichi (Good luck). If the kanji looks like the one at the far right, that is Kyoo (Bad luck). As you go from left to right, your luck goes from good to bad.

Well.... Good luck!!!

Visitors' voices

My ichiban favourite place in Japan is the village of Heda on the western coast of the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka-ken. On a clear day you can look out across the fishing boats to the sandspit beach and in the distance see Fujisan towering up into the sky. Heda is very isolated and all of the three roads in are spectacular. I believe that until the 1970's the only way to get to Heda was by sea. It is also known for its giant crabs.

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