Monday, August 6, 2012

day 1 (part 1)

Oh boy, I see a looooong blog post in my future (and yours, too). We packed so many amazing sites into our first day in Tokyo with Cliff and Naomi that it's tough to pick and choose which ones to write about.

We woke early in the morning, headed to Starbucks for breakfast, and then made our way to Asakusa to visit Sensō-ji, sometimes known to visitors as Asakusa Temple. Sensō-ji is the most popular temple to visit in Tokyo, known for its Kaminarimon or "Thunder Gate" and the hundreds of souvenir stalls lining the walkway leading to the temple.  Sensō-ji was built in AD 645 and is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. On the grounds, there is a beautiful five-story pagoda, as well as a shinto shrine.

As we strolled past the shops and closer to the actual temple, we noticed many of the traditional Buddhist rituals taking place. One such ritual is the lighting of incense. Near the center of the open area, there is a large incense burner. Visitors purchase osenko (incense), light it, and let it burn in the incense area. They can extinguish the flame by waving it in the air, or stick it in the ashy area until it burns out on its own. Then the visitor fans the smoke from the incense onto themselves, which is believed to have healing power and good luck.

Another ritual the Buddhists take part in is the cleansing of the body prior to entering the temple. Near the entrance is a fountain with running water and ladles. Visitors fill a ladle with water and use that water to clean their hands. Then, they will fill the ladle again and use that water to pour it into their hands like a bowl. This water is used to clean out their mouths. Then it is proper to fill the ladle a last time and turn it on itself, thus cleaning the ladle. 

After watching the rituals take place, we ventured into the temple itself. The inside was beautiful. The shrine area was full of detail, and the ceiling had murals painted on it. It was the most detailed of the temples we've visited during our time in Japan.

When we had finished seeing what there was to see at the temple, we made our way back toward the subway station. This time, we walked down the alley adjacent to the busy marketplace. There were several small shops and restaurants along the way and we took our time strolling and window shopping. We ate lunch at a restaurant along the way and then took the subway to Sky Tree. 


May said...

1) of course the day has to start with Starbucks!
2) Incense did that go?
3) they let you take pics of the temple...its because you are white!

Kari said...

Haha I didn't burn any incense...not this time. But there were Japanese tourists taking pictures too so it wasn't just me!