Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tokyo Drifting 2: Senso-ji Temple

The Grand Kaminarimon Gate to Senso-ji Temple (Asakusa Kannon Temple), in Tokyo's Asakusa district

My on-location attempt to upload this BlogSpot post directly from the Hostel Kawase Tokyo and Capsule failed miserably.  Just BEFORE at the 10 A.M. checkout time, I heard the Japanese woman from the front desk stomping up the stairs towards my floor. She all but beat me with her broom when she caught me loitering in the hallway, sucking up their WiFi to post a draft to my blog.
I hastily piled up a small armful of my things and hurried down the stairs with my bag, with the lady in pursuit.  She loudly offered some stern Japanese phrases in my general direction as I apologized my way out the door and onto the street.  I confess, this wasn’t my first run-in with the hostel management.  As a favor to my fab capsule mates before we went out the night before, I was happy to take one (or two) for the team whenever things got out of hand.  That’s what friends are for.  But I’d like to think that my endless supply of easy-going friendliness smoothed things over a bit with this lady.  Or not.
After collecting the remaining sidewalk-strewn clothes back into my bag, I dusted off my pride and ducked into a nearby café for a funky Japanese-curry hybrid brunch.

Before we go any further, a reader commented yesterday about the Tokyo capsule bed that I mentioned in my previous post.  This is how it looked:
CameraZOOM-20120611194854080.jpg My capsule was worn down, but it was much roomier than I expected.  A personal TV, radio, reading light, and full sized locker were all part of the deal. 

Back to our story... There were still a couple of hours to kill before my train left the Asakusa district for my connections to Narita airport.  I jogged up the street and veered into the nearby Senso-ji Temple, considered by many to be the spiritual center of Tokyo.

The main hall of Senso-ji Temple itself, near the Shinto Asakusajinja Shrine that contains the Shaden structure, is the centerpiece.  

Other sites also dot the temple grounds:
The Grand Kaminarimon Gate [see photo at the top of this blog post], with its huge paper lantern honoring their god of thunder, is definitely the most impressive of the entrances to the temple complex.

The Nakamise-dori street fair stretches from the Kaminarimon Gate to the Hozomon Gate, with around 90 stores dating from the Edo era.  Those gifts and souvenirs I brought home to the U.S.A. for family and friends?  I grabbed them all here.

Further in, a shrine was erected on Senso-ji Temple grounds for Kume Heinai Do, a Samurai from the Edo period.

The Five-Storied Pagoda stands next to the main hall of Senso-ji Temple.

Video:  Poke the “Play” button above with an incense stick to brave this shaky cell phone video that I shot in front of the main hall.

Buddhists at Tokyo's Senso-ji Temple gather around the incense burner to breathe in and wave smoke over themselves as part of a purification ritual, for good luck.

And finally…
CameraZOOM-20120612114729394_orig_1.jpg  Inside the Senso-ji Temple, Buddhists bow down and worship near the inner sanctuary.

I found it interesting that a predominately Shinto and Buddhist nation such as Japan would have 84% of respondents claim “no personal religion” in response to a census questionnaire.  Over half reportedly don’t even believe in God, or in Buddha.
If those numbers are accurate, why would so many people bother to make the journey to worship at a temple like this?  During my visit, the only answer I heard was “good luck.”  A good Buddhist friend of mine in the U.S.A. simply told me, “tradition.”
Religious traditions aren’t necessarily bad.  But if we’re talking about sincere spirituality, does it matter to whom or what we pray to and worship?  As a Christian, I believe it does.  I’m not preaching here, or making self-superiority claims… just keeping the dialog open.  I’m only asking questions.

Coming up on BlogSpot, whenever I reach the next reliable WiFI signal (or when I get a spare second-- I’m kinda rural at the moment)… the action heats up again as I seek a brief time of peace and quiet in Tokyo’s beautiful Sumida Park. 
It did not end so peacefully for me.

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