Day 2 (Meiji shrine – Senso-ji temple)
After the busy day discovering Central Tokyo and Odaiba, my next step was to visit the two main religious building in Tokyo Meiji shrine and Senso-ji temple.
Meiji Shrine (明治神宮, Meiji Jingū) is one of the most important Shinto shrines. It was established in 1920 and dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and his wife Emperess Shoken. The shrine is surrounded by a big forest around Yoyogi Park and is easily accessible from Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line or Meiji-jingu-mae Station on the Chiyoda and Fukutoshin Subway Lines. (source: www.japan-guide.com)
After walking for a few minutes, I was faced with a huge torii gates telling me that I was near the entrance of the shrine.
I don’t know if it was because of the rain but it was very quiet. I felt really relaxed while taking a stroll around the patch. The surrounding trees makes it a very tranquil and relaxed place.
Big Shinto shrines usually have a display of sake barrels donated by sake manufacturers.
After passing through the inner torii, visitors can take part in the usual Shinto activities such as making an offering in the main hall, buying charms (omamori) or writing a wish on an ema.
Due to the rain, I did not explore the surrounding of the shrine fully but if the weather was much nicer, I would have visited the Inner Garden (back in the Meiji era, it used to be the Empress’ iris garden) or the Treasure Museum which showcases the properties of the Emperor. Although entry to the shrine is free, there is an admission fee of 500 yen to enter both the garden and museum.
I didn’t waste time in Harajuku or Omotesando as i have been there previously so just got on a train direction Asakusa.
One peculiarity of Tokyo is that each neighbourhood or district have their own atmosphere so can be very different from one place to the other. Although the city has now lots of modern neighbourhoods like Shinjuku, Shibuya or even Harajuku, Asakusa used to be the place for entertainment. Now, it looks like a place struck in time surrounded by the ever changing and evolving landscape.
Walking along the shopping street of Nakamise-dori, you see how Asakusa managed to keep a sense of history. This street with Kaminarimon (雷門) and Hōzōmon gates on both ends directs visitors and worshippers towards the Sensō-ji temple (金龍山浅草寺 Kinryū-zan Sensō-ji) , one of the most ancient and important temple in Japan. The Buddhist temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo and the symbol of Asakusa. Nakamise-dori offers lots of souvenir shops, tasty treats and more.
It was impossible for me to walk the shopping street without tasting the treats on sale. From Taiyaki (たい焼き- small Japanese cakes stuffed with sweet red beans and shaped in the various Asakusa landmarks) to millet dumplings, rice crackers or dorayaki. I must have eaten at least 10 taiyakis!
The large red lantern (called chōchin (提灯 in Japanese) in the center of the Kaminarimon Gate is an iconic symbol of Asakusa. It is about 3,9 meters high, 3.3 meters wide, and weighs around 700 kilograms. The kanji 雷門 written in black on a red background means Kaminarimon. The entrance is such a busy place that I had to wait a while as I wanted to take pictures free of other tourists.
After visiting the temple and sampling some the treats, I headed over to the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Centre. The top floor of this impressive building holds an observation deck where you can take good pictures of Asakusa and the Tokyo Skytree. It’s a nice place to relax while you recharge you phone for example like I did or simply enjoy the view.
The surrounding area is full of life. If you venture around the little streets, you will see something different on each corner!
Access to Sensoji Temple and Asakusa Station is easily done through the following lines: Tsukuba Express, Tobu Skytree, Toei Asakusa and Tokyo Metro Ginza.
Despite the rain, I had a very nice day. Although, I visited two places of worship, I found Meiji shrine and Senso-ji temple to be polar opposites. Not only because of their religious differences but because the shrine felt serene and peaceful, while the temple screamed touristic place.
Have you visited both? What do you think? How do you compare them?
Coming up next is Kyoto & Osaka ! As always, thank you for reading!