Why Don’t You Walk in Asakusa? -2(Senso-ji Temple)

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?Senso-ji Temple?
Going out of Nakamise Dori, you arrive at the precincts of Senso-ji Temple. At first you will see the big gate at the entrance of the precincts. It is the gate called Hozomon Gate. Two statues of Nio of Ah and Uhn are put inside it. In addition, two large straw sandals of 4.5m in height, 1.5m in width and 500 kg in weight are tied to this gate. It is said that the straw sandal expresses power of Nio, and a demon leaves the temple, astonished that one who wears such big straw sandals protects this temple. However, this straw sandals are of almost the same size as statue of Nio. So, even Nio cannot wear it.
In the precincts, you will notice that smoke is rising in front of a main temple. It’s smoke that is rising from what’s called “koro.” It is said that illness is cured if you put the smoke on the ill portion of your body. The koro seemed to exist in the Asuka era about 1300 years ago, when Buddhism came from the continent. Originally it had been used when people cleansed themselves to meet Buddha. As a courtesy, bathe in smoke to meet Buddha, and enjoy fragrance of the smoke. There are a place called Omizuya on the right side, where people wash their hands and mouth with water from a big washbowl. Ladles are prepared at the Omizuya. So use a cup of water which you scoop by a ladle for washing hands and mouth. The water is for cleansing yourself, not for drinking.
Finally, you come to the main hall of the temple. The incline of the roof is very steep, and it is very much higher than other temples, so that people can see from the distant place.
The main hall is made of steel reinforced concrete, but it has the same form as the hall that had been built by the 3rd Tokugawa shogun in the middle of 17th century.
There are large and wide stairs to climb to the hall. In the main hall, the principal statue of Shou Kanzenon Bosatsu goddess is enshrined. And there are Buddhist statues guarding the principal statue, which shine very solemnly.

?Tokyoite’s Note?
You will see a big offertory box when you have climbed the stairs of main hall. There are not bells above because Senso-ji is not a Shinto shrine but a temple.
I always wonder how much money offering I should do when I stand in front of offertory box. According to a certain data, the average amount of the money offerings is about 150 yen. And what do people pray for?  Also according to the information of homepages of temples and  Shinto shrines, things which we can pray for are good lucks for entrance examination and qualifying examination, happy marriage, easy and safe birth of new child, business prosperity, disease recovery, good health, family security, harmony of couple, road safety, and construction security. You can pray for almost every happiness of your daily life. But I recommend that you would think well and confirm what you desire before you pray.

(History of Senso-ji temple)
By the way, I’d like to introduce you the origin of this temple. The small Buddhist statue had been caught in the fishing net of two brothers who fished in the present Sumida River. It was in the year 628. The statue was the Shokannon statue. Seeing the statue, master of the two brothers, Hajino Nakatomo, decided to become a priest and reconstructed his home to a temple. It is said that this was the origin of Senso-ji Temple. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of Edo era, who came to govern this area in 1590, set Senso-ji Temple as a prayer place. Many people gathered to Senso-ji Temple to pray, as it was respected by the Tokugawa family. From the beginning of the Edo era, the temple prospered greatly as the center of so-called Edo culture.

My memory of Asakusa is about New Year’s visit to the temple. There are some big temples and Shinto shrines in Tokyo. Many people go there for the New Year’s visit.  Especially from the night of the last day of the year to the morning of New Year’s Day, a large number of people rush to shrines or temples.
It is a pleasant event of the beginning of the year rather than a religious ritual. And it is the non-daily exciting time of going out with family or friends. But the number of people is very large and not ordinary. Senso-ji of Asakusa is crowded very much, too. It is not unusual that it takes two or three hours until people arrive at the main hall from the entrance gate. I remember someone walking behind the crowd threw money for offering. The money flew in the sky and went in the offertory box steadily. It was a funny scene on New Year’s Day in my memory.

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?From “Why Don’t You Walk in Tokyo?”?

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