Visiting Tokyo’s Sensoji Temple

So when we left off telling you about our trip to Japan we had just gotten off the Sumida River water bus at the Akasuka stop. From there we were walking to Sensoji, one of Tokyo’s most venerable Buddhist Temples. Alas, it was still raining.


The Hozomon Gate above leads into the temple complex. Sensoji’s origins go back to the 7th Century, but like almost everything else in Tokyo it was destroyed during World II and rebuilt in the mid-1900s.


The street leading up to Sensoji is lined with all kinds of stalls and shops selling food, religious items, and souvenirs.


Most of the stuff for sale I thought was kind of chintzy, though the traditional masks shown above were pretty interesting.


We noticed this sign while strolling towards the temple. Here’s an amazing thing about Tokyo and other Japanese cities: there are no pigeons. Apparently people have been convinced not to feed them, which is quite an accomplishment.


Approaching the Hozomon Gate we saw this temple dedicated to a 17th Century samurai who, towards the end of his life, felt extreme remorse for all the people he had killed. Better late than never, I guess.



The Hozomon Gate has these enormous paper lanterns. The red and black are meant to suggest thunder.


The gate is guarded by statues of two fierce-looking deities. The chicken wire is keep people from touching the statues. The models for the current figures were allegedly two Sumo wrestlers popular in the 1960s.


Inside the temple grounds there are stalls where you can buy official Sensoji merchandise: amulets, scrolls, incense, etc.


Off to the side is a five story pagoda.


This is the Sensoji temple itself.


Inside there are numerous carvings and artworks painted directly on the ceiling (as with a renaissance chapel) or hanging from the walls.


Here’s the view from the main temple toward the Hozomon Gate.


To the left of the main temple there is a small but beautiful garden featuring two Buddha statues.


A stone bridge crosses a small pond stocked with colorful koi.


The pond is fed by a rushing stream.




It was starting to get dark, so we said farewell to the friendly lion and headed for the exit.


The gates marked the border between the sacred and the secular.


Soon we were back out on the streets of Tokyo.

That’s all for now.

24 Comments on “Visiting Tokyo’s Sensoji Temple”

  1. What an interesting tour, and a shame it was raining…but still amazing to see the statues and paintings on the walls and ceiling of the Sensoji temple. I guess the artists painted lying down as Michelangelo did, they had such endurance! Japanese gardens always look so tranquil and needed in big cities.

  2. San Jose happened to be one of the few cities in America, along with Seattle and of course Washington DC, that got some of the flowering cherries gifted to America from Japan after World War II. I also believe that San Jose is where the first koi to be imported to America lived.

      • Well, it’s about 25 years ago! But I went there countless times and remember the extremes of old and new alongside each other in the whole neighbourhood, and the mystical atmosphere despite all the people and the commercialism. We saw the Matsuri festival once, where dozens of young men carry huge gold-laden palanquins along the temple avenue – exciting, loud and crowded! Then we accidentally got caught up once in the Brazilian street festival that takes place around that area, literally being swept along by the dancers! A striking memory is of a Buddhist monk kneeling outside McDonalds(!) collecting alms in his bowl, and another is the strangely quiet crowds on New Year’s Day as all the Japanese go to shrines to pray for a good new year. I think I saw something different each time I went, so I hope you manage to visit again one day. 🙂

  3. >Here’s an amazing thing about Tokyo and other Japanese cities: there are no pigeons. Apparently people have been convinced not to feed them

    There are many pigeons (and big crows) in Japan. But it’s true that very few people feed pigeons…it’s because doing so would cause a nuisance for others.

  4. A beautiful temple. It must have been so difficult to paint those ceilings. I am amazed that they don’t have pigeons. A good thing especially in a city. I am always entertained by their signage. They often are sweet suggestions instead of rules.

  5. I always feel so sad when I hear of ancient buildings that are destroyed by war or natural disaster – do you happen to know if they stuck to the ancient form when they rebuilt or did they “modernize” the architecture? I’m sure you know which side of the coin I stand on 😉

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