It was raining the day I went to Asakusa, the center of Tokyo’s shitamachi or ‘low city’. But it wasn’t the rain that bothered me (although it was a little difficult to take photos while holding an umbrella). What really bothered me was the biting cold that came with it. I was so annoyed with myself for coming out unprepared yet again. As you know, I’m not a big fan of the cold. A wrap-around dress? In this weather?! I really questioned my
intelligence common sense.
For centuries, Asakusa was the center of entertainment in Tokyo, especially during the Edo Period. To this day, the district still possesses its old-world charm, thanks to its most popular attraction, Sensoji or the Asakusa Kannon Temple.
I tried to make the most out of the cold situation. And as I moved around and observed all the people around me– devotees, mostly–I felt privileged to be in the middle of it all. Seeing people in prayer is a humbling experience and reminded me of my own spirituality. There’s also something about holy grounds that makes one want to commune with one’s God, no matter what one’s religion is.
At the temple, I admired the architectural details of Japan’s oldest temple. Like the great cathedrals of Europe, it was mesmerizing to see how the architect, builders and artisans paid attention to even the most minute of details.
Outside, the smell of burning incense led me to the courtyard where people were purifying themselves with the smoke.
A few more steps and I was out of the gate and into Nakamise, the famous 200-meter shopping strip just outside the temple gates.
Here, various Japanese merchandise were sold, from traditional Japanese folding fans, to popular Japanese snacks called Ningyo-yaki–those cute little cakes filled with red bean paste.
Seeing that I still had a little time before my next appointment, I decided to have a cup of coffee in a quaint coffee shop. To be honest, I just wanted to be near something warm.
The coffee was great, but I almost fainted when I saw my bill.
Oh, so that’s what THIS menu thingie meant.
My God. Two semesters of Japanese Language courses at the university and I could not even remember five words. I’m pretty sure I knew how to write ‘coffee’ in Japanese back in the 90s! I’m really getting old. Gingerly, I stood up, paid the bill, bundled up as best I could, and once again braved the cold.
How to get to Sensoji:
Sensoji Temple is a few steps from Asakusa Station, served by the Ginza Subway Line, Asakusa Subway Line and Tobu Railways.
From Tokyo Station
Take the JR Yamanote Line to Kanda Station (2 minutes, 130 yen) and transfer to the Ginza Subway Line for Asakusa (10 minutes, 160 yen).
From Shinjuku Station
Take the orange JR Chuo Line to Kanda Station (10 minutes, 160 yen) and transfer to the Ginza Subway Line for Asakusa (10 minutes, 160 yen).