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Temples & Shrines (How to) February 7, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Temples & Shrines (How to)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-IE

Visiting a temple or a shrine in Japan is a very common thing.  It is very cheap as they usually don’t charge you any money to visit.  The biggest challenge comes in what to do when you do visit a shrine, and learning the differences.  The first thing to learn is the differences between a temple and a shrine.  The basic difference is the religion.  A temple is generally associated with Buddhism and a shrine is associated with Shintoism.  Shinto is a Japanese religion that worships various deities and people.  Buddhism and Shintoism had been intertwined since Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the late 600s.  In the 1800s, during the Meiji Restoration period, the two religions were split and Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines were no longer allowed to function as one unit.  This split can easily be seen in various locations around Japan where you will see a major Buddhist temple and a small Shinto shrine next to it.  The opposite also occurs.  This makes it very difficult to differentiate between the two and even scholars can have a difficult time if all the information was removed.  The easiest way, aside from reading the name, is to look inside the main hall.  If you see a Buddhist statue, you are in a temple.  If you see an elaborate room with gold leaf or other things scattered about, you are probably in a shrine.  This is not to say all temples and shrines are like this, but it is an easy way to guess which one is which if you don’t know the name or kanji to differentiate the two.

Before entering a temple or shrine, you are greeted by a large font of water and ladles.  This is the purification, or washing, font.  It is a simple task where you must wash yourself to become pure.  It is akin to dipping your fingers in the holy water and making a sign of the cross as you enter a Christian church.  The process is a little different.  The strict rules state that you grab a ladle by your right hand, fill it with water and proceed to rinse your left hand followed by the right.  Be sure to pour the water into the trough and not back into the font.  I’m sure I must have done this by mistake the first time.  Put a little water into your left hand and slurp it up.  You don’t have to drink it if you don’t want to, and you can spit it out into the trough next to the font.  Afterwards, rinse your left hand again and place the ladle in its original location.  It is a very simple process that takes seconds to do but can mystify people who have never seen it or prepared for it before.  I remember my first time doing this and I had no clue as to what to do.  Even Japanese people don’t know the “proper” way to do it.  The best thing to do is just rinse your hands and finish up.  I don’t recommend drinking the water, although it is usually safe to do so.  I do put the water in my mouth but I never drink it.  There is also no obligation to doing this every time.  Think of it as if you enter a church.  If there is holy water, you don’t have to dip your fingers in it, but to be respectful to the religion, you should.

The prayer is where things get more complicated and diverse.  In a temple, you generally only have a prayer offering box.  When you go to a shrine, things can change a little.  Shrines tend to have a type of noise maker over the offering box.  It is typically either a gong or a rattle of some sort.  The gong and rattle are located near the roof and a large rope is connected to it.  When praying, the first step is to throw your money into the box.  To be lucky, you should use a coin that has a hole in it.  In Japan, 5 and 50 yen coins are lucky.  500 yen is good too, but I feel it isn’t as lucky as there is no hole in the actual coin.  Once the money is in the box, you can shake the rope and make some noise.  If there is no rope, you can skip this step.  Take a step back if necessary and bow 2 times, followed by clapping 2 times.  After the second clap, keep your hands together and make a prayer or wish.  Bow one more time and you are finished.  Most Japanese people aren’t religious, rather they are more superstitious than anything else.  They tend to pray for luck and money but most people don’t actually believe in the religion they are praying to.  It’s similar to having a lucky doll when writing a test.

Japanese people can act very superstitious about religion.  You can purchase a variety of lucky amulets from temples and shrines that will protect you on a journey, bring you good health, or help you with a test.  While some temples will offer lucky amulets, the amulets are almost always exclusive to shrines.  Most of these amulets are good for one year, after which they need to be “recharged”.  Many people will purchase one each year and return it to the shrine they purchased it from.  If you want to recharge it, you must go to the original shrine you bought it from, which can make things a little difficult if you are just visiting Japan or you purchase it from a small shrine in a remote location.  Some people do return to the original temple but the majority don’t.  If you don’t want the amulet anymore, especially if the power has run out, you can return it to any shrine, especially during the new year’s festivities.  They usually have large boxes where you can toss your lucky amulets in for recycling or ritual burning.  Be sure that you don’t open the amulets or the power can either run out or turn to bad luck.  I have heard stories, first hand, of people having their amulets opened as they travel through airport security.  Think of asking a Hindu to take off their turban.  Opening a lucky amulet, in a religious sense, is similar to taking off a turban or even a hijab.

Both temples and shrines have “omikuji” or fortunes.  These are pieces of paper that tell you if you have good or bad luck, and to what degree.  There are roughly 9 levels.  There are 3 each for good luck, bad luck, and mixed luck.  The most interesting way to get your luck is a sort of lottery system.  There is a large container that is either cylindrical or hexagonal in shape.  You shake this and try to get a stick through a small hole at the top.  Once you get a stick, it will have a number on it.  That number will tell you which fortune you can receive.  Sometimes they have a letter instead.  Put the stick back into the container and pick up your fortune from the corresponding drawer.  Unfortunately, most fortunes are in Japanese only, but a few places such as Sensoji in Asakusa have Englilsh fortunes.  The other way to get a fortune is to dig around a box.  Some shrines have boxes where you can dig through many fortunes and hope you get a good one.  You can also get them from vending machines, but there isn’t much fun in that.  Once you get your fortune, you have to tie it somewhere in the temple or shrine.  There are usually racks where you can do this or a tree where many others have done the same.  You can easily find the location by looking around the temple or shrine.  For those who have the best luck possible, you actually put it in your wallet and keep it for a year.  The reasoning for leaving the fortune at the shrine is to prevent the bad luck from following you home, although with any good luck, I don’t see the point in leaving it there.

Leaving the shrine is much easier.  Look at the exit and walk that way.  There are actually a lot of things you can do at the temples and shrines that most people don’t know about.  Most temples and shrines offer personalized writing and stamps.  It is relatively unknown but you can buy a special stamp book from any temple or shrine and pay a small fee for one of the priests to write the name of the shrine and put the official stamp inside the book.  This book is a record of your pilgrimage to visit various temples and shrines around Japan.  It makes a great souvenir as well, even if you can’t read it properly.  Making notes of this is good enough.  You can also buy are prayer beads or rosaries.  These are available at Buddhist temples only.  Unfortunately I am not familiar with how they work, but they are a nice accessory.  As I said, there are many other things you can do, and even I am constantly discovering new things about temples and shrines.  For a typical tourist, the information here is more than enough to keep you satisfied.  For a resident, just enjoy the adventure.

Shrine and Temple Information:

General Information:  http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/pilgrimages-pilgrims-japan.html
Another account into Stamp Books:  http://japanlifeandreligion.com/2010/04/12/tales-of-a-buddhist-pilgrim-me/



2011 – Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows September 6, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Sports, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2011 – Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Il

It has been a few years since I had last been to a baseball game in Japan.  I had always wanted to watch another game, and in fact I enjoy going to these games every year if possible.  It is not an easy task to get to a game and the two times that I did visit, they were different games.  The first time, I went to Chiba Marine Stadium in Chiba to watch the Chiba Lotte Marines.  That time I was somewhat behind home plate.  The next game was at Meiji Jingu where I watched the iconic Hanshin Tigers take on the Yakult Swallows.  I was sitting in the Tigers reserved seating near third base.  Both of those games were fun and exciting and I was able to enjoy the game as well as the fans.  On August 14, 2011, I watched my third baseball game.  It was the same game as before, Hanshin Tigers versus Yakult Swallows.  I was at Meiji Jingu again, but this time I was sitting in the outfield.

The outfield area is an open area where people can sit anywhere they’d like.  You basically show up when the doors open and grab a seat anywhere that is available.  Being a Sunday game during obon, I decided to head there early, but it was not early enough.  I arrived about 10 minutes after the gates opened.  There were no lines but at the same time, there were no seats.  Lots of people reserved seats and the only seats available were singles.  I was lucky enough to find a couple seats open in the top corner of the outfield.  Since I was in Meiji Jingu, it didn’t really matter where you sat as almost all of the seats were good.  While my seats were a little far from the infield, it was a good vantage point as I nearly had the same view as the pitcher.  It was much easier for me to tell if the pitch was a strike or a ball.  This made analysing the throws much easier.

If you read any of my previous posts, you will know that the outfield is reserved for the hard core fans.  This is where people stand and jump all the time.  There is a small section for people to stand up in the back and there is usually a trumpet band as well.  This game was no exception.  It was literally standing room only.  The people around me were all crazy supporters.  A couple rows in front, we had a major Hanshin Tigers fan who would do a dance and help lead the cheers for each of the batters.  He constantly wore puppets on his hands.  These puppets were of the Tigers mascot and he would do a little dance with them.  Behind me, standing on the railing the entire game, was a typical Hanshin heckler.  He was hyper critical of the play.  He would shout crazy things and I think some of the kids shouldn’t have heard some of it.  To give an example, one of his more interesting rants was to tell the catcher to use his beautiful face to get a hit.  That way he would walk out to first base.  He taunted the Hanshin players when they made a bad play as well as the Swallows.  His “anger” was focused almost completely at the Hanshin players.  Hanshin is infamously known for having the most loyal, yet aggressive, fans in Japan.

While the hecklers are always present at the game, sitting in the cheering section was a brand new experience.  There is an energy that I can’t explain.  When I was in the reserved seats a few years ago, I was cheering with everyone but it wasn’t as loud.  The people weren’t really doing their best.  It was strange when we chanted for the ball to come as behind third base would have been a foul.  In the outfield, it was very natural to do it.  I learned a very valuable lesson as well.  For Japanese baseball, the fans carry plastic megaphones.  This isn’t so they can yell better, although this does happen.  It is so they can cheer and be noisy without clapping.  As I didn’t have my own set of megaphones, I had to clap only.  By the end of the game, my voice was raspy and my hands were red and in pain from all the clapping.  I highly recommend visiting the park and going to the fan section as you will get a completely different experience.

The game itself was very long.  It lasted over 4 hours to complete the standard 9 innings.  It started off well with Hanshin getting a 2-0 lead.  This eventually became 3-1 by the end of the first half of the game.  There were a lot of hits for both sides and a lot of misses.  Hanshin had capitalized on a few errors throughout the game but the final inning provided a lot of drama.  Hanshin had converted for 5 runs at the top of the 9th.  They were doing really well and all of the players were hitting well.  They had the game in the bag until the Swallows came up for the bottom of the 9th.  The crowd was ready to go home and call it a night but the Swallows had other ideas.  A couple of poor errors by the Tigers, along with 2 pitcher changes in one single inning lead the Swallows to come back.  For a tense 3 player run the score became 8-7 in favour of the Tigers.  The crowd were chanting “Only one more person”, then “Only one more pitch”.  It was heartbreaking to see Hanshin fail to get the necessary outs before they final player was finally struck out.  It was one of the tensest games of the night and Hanshin ended on top.

Watching baseball in Japan has always been fun for me.  I never expected it to be fun as I never enjoyed baseball, but going to a game has been fun since I went to my first game.  Sitting in each area is very different.  The “serious” people tend to sit behind home plate.  They don’t cheer so much but they are interested in the game.  Some of them are corporate seats/tickets, so the people aren’t as connected with the game or team as other fans are.  As you move to the reserved seats on the side, you have people cheering all the time.  They are also more serious but they are also fans of the teams they support.  Wearing the wrong colour in this area is a bad idea.  The outfield is where all the action is.  You will get the big fans wearing all of the crazy costumes.  You will see all of the flags being waved and be in the middle of the loudest cheering area in the stadium.  Each area is different and it is worth trying each area.  For a tourist just visiting Tokyo for a short time, I recommend getting reserved seats.  That way you can show up a few minutes before the first pitch and use the free time to do some sightseeing.  For others, the free seating area is great.  You can get there early, enjoy a few drinks, and just soak up the atmosphere.  Either way you will be entertained.

Japanese Baseball (Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows) (2011) is part of a series of posts on baseball in Japan and my experiences going to various games.  To read more about other games I have experienced, continue with the posts below:


Running in Tokyo (Central Tokyo) June 22, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Sports, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Running in Tokyo (Central Tokyo)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-pc

The Imperial Palace is the most popular place for running, but it is not, by far, the only place to enjoy a run.  There are countless other locations that make for a good run.  In central Tokyo, there are three good areas for running.  The second most popular place, after the Imperial Palace, is Yoyogi Park.  This is a large public park that is free to enter.  The closest station, for most people, would be Harajuku Station.  The park is located just behind Meiji Jingu, but be aware that heading into Meiji Jingu, and running, is not allowed.  The main entrance to Yoyogi Park is located on the south side, across from the Yoyogi National Stadium.  If you don’t see it clearly, you aren’t really at the entrance.  The other way to tell you are going to the wrong place is to look for the large wooden Torii (gate).  If you see that, that’s the route to Meiji Jingu and the guards will probably stop you from entering.  The park itself is a nice short run.  Upon entering, just keep going straight and you’ll naturally enter the inner loop.  This loop is less than 1km long, probably about 700m.  It’s a nice loop and you’ll be able to enjoy the various people relaxing in the park.  You’ll be within eye sight of the large fountains, and you’ll be able to see various school kids practicing their drama skits.  You might be lucky to see maids, various costumes, and idols getting their pictures taken.  It’s a popular site for this.  If you are lucky enough, you can even enjoy the cherry blossoms.  Overall, the park is nice as it’s fairly shaded in the summer, but due to the number of people relaxing, it can be a little difficult to enjoy it all the time.  It’s not perfect, but it’s still great.  If you are staying in the Shinjuku or Shibuya region, Yoyogi Park is very close and easy to reach without any travelling.

Next door to Yoyogi Park is Meiji Jingu Gaien.  This is a large complex of greenery and sports stadiums.  It was built during the 60s for the 1964 Olympics.  Since then, the buildings have been maintained and the area has become one of the centres of sports in Tokyo.  While Tokyo Dome is the home of the Tokyo favourite, Yomiuri Giants, Meiji Jingu Gaien is home to the Yakult Swallows and the Emperor’s Cup final for the J-League.  For runners, there is a major loop road that is closed on the weekends and provides a good circuit for running.  The loop is roughly 1.5km in distance and generally surrounded by trees.  Since the road is closed on weekends, it makes an ideal place to run.  The only problem with this is that there are various activities happening on the weekends at all times of the day.  There are courses for kids to learn how to ride a bike, various baseball teams walking to and from the many baseball fields in the area, and lots of security keeping an eye on people.  I would still recommend this loop for running, but due to the popularity of the area for families and others, it may not be the best for all people.  Also beware of the Swallows games as it will be extremely busy near the start and at the end of the game itself.

Located next to Meiji Jingu Gaien is the Akasaka Palace (State Guest House) and Togu Palace, home of the crowned Prince Naruhito, the heir to the Japanese throne.  This is a very ideal running route, in my own opinion.  This route is around 5km in length with no lights.  It is similar in distance to the Imperial Palace, but far superior.  The route itself isn’t very busy as most Japanese people avoid it.  When running, I usually encounter serious runners only.  The main reason only serious runners tend to use this route is the fact that there are two significant hills.  While the Imperial Palace has only one hill, which isn’t very steep, the two on this route are fairly significant.  The first hill is located on a small section on the east side between Aoyama-dori and an elevated highway.  This is also the most dangerous section of road as the sidewalk is very narrow.  There is barely room for one person to run, so passing oncoming runners can be a challenge.  Thankfully, this section is very short.  On the opposite side of this stretch of road is the other hill.  It is not as bad as the eastern section, but still a good workout.  Generally, the area has a nice wide sidewalk for 90% of the route and lots of police and cameras.  Unfortunately, the scenery can be a little sparse due to the high walls keeping people out of the palace grounds.  The only interesting thing to see would be the Akasaka Palace.  If there is a head of state visiting Japan, such as the US President or the Queen of England, they will be staying in the Akasaka Palace.  During this time, there are state flags everywhere and extra security.  Don’t let that detract you from running around the palace.  It’s still nice, even with the police watching you as you run.

If you are adventurous, and in need of a marathon run in Tokyo, doing all three of these parks, along with the Imperial Palace is a great way to see everything and do minimal stopping.  This route will be in the neighbourhood of 20km to do a loop of each on, but may not include a return trip.  Be aware that brining money for a train to get back, or a few hundred yen to buy a drink at various vending machines or convenience stores is advised.  The summer can get very hot and humid, so keep hydrated.  Other than that, be adventurous and have fun exploring the city on foot.

This is part of a series on running in Tokyo.  To read more, continue to Running in Tokyo – Imperial Palace.


Running Club:  http://www.namban.org/
Runner’s World Article:  http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-239-281–6897-0,00.html
Running In Tokyo:  http://runningintokyo.com/
Time Out Tokyo (Blog):  http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo/feature/176
Yoyogi Park (English):  http://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/english/park/detail_03.html#yoyogi
Yogogi Park (Japanese):  http://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/park/format/index039.html
Meiji Jingu Gaien (English):  http://www.meijijingugaien.jp/english/
Meiji Jingu Gaien (Japanese):  http://www.meijijingugaien.jp/


Temples of Tokyo – Part II [Meiji-jingu & Zojoji] February 16, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Temples of Tokyo – Part II [Meiji-jingu & Zojoji]” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-gk

Once you finish with Sensoji, you can make your way across town to visit Meiji Jingu.  This is much more tranquil than Sensoji.  There are far fewer people here, and there isn’t any shopping within the shrine grounds.  The first thing you must do is venture to the main shrine.  This is, in itself, a difficult task.  It can take roughly 10 minutes to walk there.  The walk itself is very nice, as you are walking within a natural forest.  The various torii gates are also magnificent as they tend to blend in with the surrounding trees.  The entire walkway leading to the temple is also very spacious.  This is mainly due to the crowding during the New Year celebrations.  If you have a little money and want to see a garden, you can have a nice walk around the private gardens of the shrine.  I doubt that this garden is that beautiful, so it’s easy to skip.  You will also run into a row of large barrels with various writings on it.  These are sake casks.  Inside each one, it is filled with sake.   They are donated to the shrine by various sake breweries and companies for various reasons.  It makes for an interesting photo opportunity.  The shrine itself is pretty interesting.  The main courtyard is situated in such a way that you cannot really see any buildings in the surrounding areas.  This makes it a sort of oasis within Tokyo.  You can also see the inner buildings from the entrance way, but don’t expect a full walk through.  Like most of the other temples and shrines, there is a public area, and a private area.  Overall, the private area is nothing special.  They usually hold weddings and other ceremonies inside the various halls.  There isn’t much in the way of statues or things worth photographing.  Temples tend to have more interesting things behind the closed doors.  After you finish with the main court yard, you will be greeted by the fortune area of the shrine.  Shrines tend to make more money selling fortunes than anything else.  Do you want to have a child?  Do you want to do well on a test?  Go to the priest, tell them, and they’ll make a fortune for you.  It’s valid for only one year.  After that, you have to return it, or go back to recharge it.  When that is over, you can make your way back to Harajuku station.  On the way out, you can visit a small museum dedicated to Emperor Meiji, but do note that the cost to enter is probably not worth the visit.  I heard that there are only pictures inside, and very few artefacts.

If you have the time, visiting Zojoji before Meiji Jingu is recommended.  Zojoji, as I mentioned, is not very famous outside of Tokyo.  It is relatively small compared to Sensoji and Meiji Jingu.  The approach from Daimon station isn’t very interesting either.  You can do everything you want to do at Sensoji and Meiji Jingu, so visiting Zojoji isn’t necessary.  However, the experience of Zojoji is very unique.  Just outside the main entrance, there is a very major street.  It’s bustling with traffic all day long.  In fact, it can be extremely noisy.  However, once you walk into the temple grounds, the noise seems to disappear.  All around the temple, you’ll see various trees planted by various dignitaries, such as George W. Bush.  There are various statues, and a unique cemetery located in the temple grounds which also helps make it more unique.  You can see a large bell that is rung to signal the start of the New Year.  The major draw for this temple will be the ability to take a picture of the temple near the foot of Tokyo Tower.  It’s a great picture to show friends, and it truly shows the mix of traditional Japanese culture with modernism.  The other main draw, on a personal note, has to be entering the temple’s main hall.  While Sensoji allows you to only enter the entryway, Zojoji allows you to enter, sit, and meditate.  It is a nice cool place to relax on a hot afternoon, and the smell of the incense is very calming.  If you are lucky, you can see one of the monks performing a prayer.  It is, without a doubt, one of the best temple experiences I have had in Japan, and the best one in Tokyo.

Temples and shrines in Tokyo vary from large and extravagant, to small and unnoticeable.  Meiji Jingu is one of the large ones, but if you are walking along a side street, you might see a small shrine no bigger than a pay phone.  It’s impossible to truly recommend only three temples to visit in Tokyo.  It’s even more impossible to recommend three in all of Japan.  Each one has their own unique layouts, unique statues, and unique festivals.  If you are lucky enough to be living in Tokyo, be sure to visit other temples, especially your local temple.  You never know what interesting things are going to happen.

Note:  Other notable temples and shrines include Yasukuni Shrine (infamous for worshiping battles in the name of peace) and Sengakuji (famous for being the resting place of the 47 Ronin).

This is Part II of a two part series.  To read more, please head over to Part I.

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2059.html (About Shrines)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meiji_Shrine (Meiji Jingu)
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3002.html (Meiji Jingu)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zojoji (Zojoji)
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3010.html (Zojoji)


Temples of Tokyo – Part I [Sensoji] February 9, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Temples of Tokyo – Part I [Sensoji]” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-gh

When people think of Japanese temples, they think of Kyoto.  Not everyone has a chance to go to Kyoto.  If you only have a week in Japan, sometimes you can’t afford the time to go to Kyoto.  While it can be done in a day using the shinkansen, sometimes it’s much better to just relax and visit a few temples around Tokyo.  That way, you can take your time and save a lot of money on train fares.  In Tokyo, most tourists will only visit two temples; Sensoji in Asakusa, and Meiji Jingu in Harajuku.  Technically, Meiji Jingu is not a temple, but a shrine dedicated to the Japanese religion of Shinto.  Often overlooked is the temple called Zojoji.  It is much smaller than the other two, but due to it being left off most major tour books, it’s a great place to see a temple without the hustle and bustle of the other two tourist spots.

The first things to know when talking about temples and shrines are, what is a temple, and what is a shrine?  In a few simple words, a temple is dedicated to Buddha and a shrine is dedicated to a Shinto god.  It can be very difficult to know which is which, but in Japan, the easiest way to tell the difference is to look for the torii.  If there is a torii gate, a wooden archway near the entrance, it’s a shrine.  If there is a pagoda, or a huge statue of a Buddhist deity, it’s a temple.  In reality, there is no easy way to distinguish one from the other without research or looking at everything extensively.  Generally speaking, once you see a few of the temples and shrines, you tend to understand what the others will look like.  After visiting the these three temples in Tokyo, you don’t have to visit Kyoto, but as always, things are always slightly different, or they might have that one unique factor that makes it stand out.  Kyoto is still a very important place in Japan, and it’s still highly recommended.  If you don’t have time to make it out there, don’t feel too sad, but if you do have time, I would always recommend heading there.

Sensoji is probably the most visited temple in Tokyo, and the oldest.  When arriving at Asakusa station, it’s very easy to get disoriented.  They have finished some remodelling of the station to make it easier for people to find their way to the temple, but once you are on the street, you can still be a little disoriented.  Finding your way to Nakamise Shopping Street is the best way to get to the temple.  There is a large Buddhist style gate called Kaminarimon, with two large wooden statues inside protecting the temple.  This is the start of the shopping street, and the approach to the temple itself.  The shopping street is great for the usual souvenirs that you’ll need when you go home, so be sure to buy everything here.  Other areas of Tokyo don’t always offer this type of touristy garb.  You can easily buy rice crackers and yukatas, along with other cheesy Japanese stuff.  Do note that most Japanese people will only buy food, and rarely, if ever, buy the other stuff.  The temple itself is beautifully bathed in red paint.  Being a big tourist attraction, you can buy an “Omikuji”, which is a fortune.  They generally include English.  First, put your money into the donation box; then shake a large metal tin.  After shaking, turn the tin upside down and shake it until you get a stick.  This stick tells you which drawer to open to get your fortune.  It’s pretty simple and once you are there, you can watch others do it first and just copy them.  They should have English on the reverse of the fortune, or a translation somewhere nearby.  Do note that if you get one with okay, or bad luck, you are supposed to tie it to a post so that it doesn’t follow you.  If you have good luck, you are supposed to keep it in your wallet for one year.  Next, you can enter the temple itself.  There really isn’t much to see.  When you enter, you can only stay in the front entrance portion of the main hall.  Here, you can toss some money into the donation box and pray for whatever you like.  Also note that it’s better to throw a coin with a hole in it as it’s considered lucky.  5 and 50 yen coins are the only coins to have a hole in them.

This is Part I of a two part series.  To continue reading about the Temples of Tokyo, continue to Part II.


http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2058.html (About Temples)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensō-ji (About Sensoji)
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3001.html (More about Sensoji)


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