Rain, Incense and Fortune Telling at Tokyo’s Senso-ji Temple

Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo
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The rain was lashing down and we emerged from the Asakusa Metro Station into a throng of umbrellas. The weather had done nothing to deter the crowds surging down Nakamise-dori, the street that leads to Tokyo’s Senso-ji Temple. The road was packed with market stalls piled high with everything from hand painted chopsticks to kimonos and nodding kittens, and people were stopping to browse the wares or to buy a warming snack of tempura or noodles.
Nakamise-dori, Tokyo
The rain did not put off shoppers on Nakamise-dori
 

An Ancient Buddhist Temple

We walked past the prayer lanterns and the incense burners to watch people getting their fortunes told. This is a popular pastime at Senso-ji: you drop a coin into a slot at the fortune telling kiosk and pick out a numbered stick from a box. The number takes you to a wooden drawer from which you take a strip of paper with your fortune written in Japanese and English. If you like the fortune you put it into your pocket; if you don’t you can tie it to a rack and buy another one!
Prayer lanterns, Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo
Prayer lanterns at the Senso-ji Temple

 

Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo
Clouds of incense burning outside the temple
The temple itself dates back to the 7th century, although it has been rebuilt several times. We went inside, to find shelter and to admire the rich decor and the painted ceiling, but could not approach the inner sanctum as a private service was taking place.
Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo
The richly decorated interior of the Senso-ji Temple

Grounds of the Senso-ji Temple

Outside the temple was a large pagoda and some murals that seemed to show scenes from Japanese history. We stopped to look at a small garden containing a shrine to Kumo no Heinai, a 17th century samurai warrior who later adopted a religious life. He came to regret having killed so many people and, as an act of atonement, he requested that as many people as possible should stamp on his grave after he died!
Mural outside the Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo
A mural in the street outside the Senso-ji Temple
Shrine to Kume no Heinai, Tokyo
The shrine to Kume no Heinai, a Sumurai of the Edo period
But by now the rain had started to turn to snow. Along with almost everyone else, we decided to seek refuge in the covered shopping streets to the side of Nakamise-dori.
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15 thoughts on “Rain, Incense and Fortune Telling at Tokyo’s Senso-ji Temple”

  1. Hi there. Thanks for the post. I have yet to get to the Far East. This seems like a unique day trip that you enjoyed, steeped in interesting history of the samurai culture.

  2. I really like the mural outside of the temple. Simple, beautiful art like that really sticks in your mind after you've visited a place, doesn't it?

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About Karen

WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren. I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 60 countries at the last count). I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica (I still hope to get there one day…), and my current favourite destinations are Italy, Spain and North America. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way.

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