Pray at Senso-ji Temple (Asakusa), Meditate in the Garden.

 
The Thunder Gate
After we eat at Tokyo, we go pray.  Somehow this sequence reminds me of the novel Eat, Pray, Love.  As a first time visitor to Tokyo, I had to go see Tokyo’s oldest and most significant temple, the Sensoji-temple or also known as the Asakusa.
 
 
The temple is dedicated to Guan Yin or the Goddess of Mercy and is supposed to have first been built in 645.  Although most buildings have been destroyed during the World War, they have all been rebuilt and it continues to be an important temple in Tokyo.  People still worship and pray at this temple.  While I was there, I witnessed a ceremony taking place with a few monks but I wasn’t able to ascertain what the ceremony was about.

 

It’s a fun place to visit even if you’ve been to a dozen shrines already.  I particularly enjoyed seeing how this place of worship just suddenly appears to you walking down the street.  The entrance is dominated by an enormous “Thunder Gate” under which hangs an equally gigantic paper lantern.  It’s supposed to be painted like thunder and lightning.  The gate and entrance, coupled with the massive crowds of tourists and locals alike is feast for the eyes.  The energy is just buzzing all around the place.  It’s so international, I spy several tour groups while I’m there.  One can get a little dizy but you’ll find peace once you reach the temple.

The Nakamise-Dori
I particularly enjoyed the Nakamise-Dori which is a shopping street centuries old lining your way towards the temple.  While I was there, to signify autumn all the trees lining the path were dressed in paper golden leaves.  Beautiful.  Seasons are important in Japan.  The street is filled with shops selling japanese souvenirs from postcards to yukatas. Snacks are sold too, but they have a season.  Autumn is the time for potatoes, pumpkins and chestnuts.  I wonder what is sold during other seasons of the year.  
Once you reach the temple you can pray and even ask the Oracle any questions you have. Of course its all in japanese 🙂  My book tells me there are a 100 answers so it must be pretty precise!

 

The most enjoyable part of the temple visit though was walking through the quiet and meditative garden just towards the right of the temple.  It’s so quiet and calm in this garden, that I somehow feel like I’ve stepped into another world.  It’s hard to believe that this garden is only a few steps away from the busy temple front.  It’s a traditional japanese garden complete with japanese maple trees, a pond filled with healthy red carp and a japanese bridge to finish the landscape.  Towering over the garden you have a beautiful view of the 5-storey pagoda.  All this is in a tiny little area.  Small yet it is enough to give one peace of mind after walking down the busy shopping street.  It’s amazing how much power these gardens can have over you.  Perhaps we should all have such a little garden in our homes or offices.

The Japanese Garden
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