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Sensoji Temple

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Sensoji Temple
Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) of Sensoji Temple

Sensoji Temple is located in Asakusa of Taito Ward in the Tokyo Metropolis.  This temple is probably most popular with the foreign tourists and one of the most visited temples in Japan, with about thirty million people visiting this temple every year.  The Kaminarimon gate above, is probably one of the most photographed and well known Temple gates of all of Japan.  The Asakusa is easily accessible by subway or bus from anywhere within Tokyo Metro.

Sensoji Temple is the thirteenth temple in the Bando 33 Kannon Pilgrimage circuit.

Sensoji Temple Seal

In 628 AD, Japan's capital was at Asuka (present-day Nara Prefecture) and what would become Tokyo was still mostly uninhabited grasslands.  Two fishermen, Hinokuma Hamanari and his brother Takenari, were on the Sumida River one day when they heard a command from the heavens to cast their net.  When brought the net up, they saw that they had caught a golden statue of Bodhisattva Kannon.

Historic Picture Scroll of the Kumbun Era
Depicting Fishermen finding the Kannon Statue

Hearing of this from the Hinokuma brothers, village headman Haji Nakatomo decided that he would become a devout believer in Bodhisattva Kannon.  He took vows as a Buddhist priest, remade his home into a temple and spent the rest of his life practicing Buddhism.  This episode marks the birth of Tokyo's oldest temple and the start of Sensoji's history.

In 645 AD, the renowned Buddhist priest Shokai visited Asakusa and built a hall for the worship of Bodhisattva Kannon; that makes him the actual founder of Sensoji.  After having a mysterious dream one night, Shokai decided that Bodhisattva Kannon should be hidden from human view, and it has remained so ever since.  Word of blessings bestowed by Bodhisattva Kannon spread far and wide, and many people who had heard of this came to worship at Sensoji from all over Japan.  As a result, Asakusa flourished and grew into a large district.

In the mid-ninth century, Monk Jikaku Daishi Ennin, the highest ranking priest of Enryakuji, the head temple of the Tendai faith of Buddhism, visited Sensoji, created a statue of Bodhisattva Kannon identical to the hidden one and called its spirit into the new statue.  Sensoji, thus further developed by Monk Ennin, attracted devout faithful not only among commoners but also famous samurai and persons of culture.  Designated a sacred site of prayer for the shogunate by shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Edo shogunate, Sensoji reached a peak of prosperity. 

Here is a video of this magnificent Temple:

Nowadays the Taito ward where Asakusa Sensoji temple is located has become more famous because it is located next to Sumida Ward where the new landmark Tokyo Sky Tree (tallest free standing tower in the world) is located.  From the precincts of the Sensoji Temple, you can see the beautiful Tokyo Sky Tree.  Standing there you can compare the Sensoji Temple Pagoda and the Tokyo Sky Tree.  This will give you a perspective of the good and new, specially when Tokyo Sky Tree is built with the same architectural and structural principles as the Pagodas of the ancient Japanese temples.

Here is a fun video showing both the old and the new together:

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