Ancient Tokyo: Sensō-Ji Temple
Any Tokyo Tourist’s Must-See
Sensō-ji is Tokyo’s oldest ancient temple, dating back to 645 AD. It’s stunning, dramatic and a major attraction for international and Japanese tourists alike. The pedestrian-only lanes leading up to the temple are as packed as a sold out concert with hundreds of pop-up shops with the best gift/souvenir shopping in all of Tokyo. Inside the temple courtyard, you can get your Omikuji for a donation of 100 ¥ (equivalent of $1 USD), which literally translates to a “fortune-telling paper.” Sensō-ji is iconic and one of our favorite spots in Tokyo — well worth the cover photo of the Lonely Planet Tokyo Pocket book guide!
Photography at temples is only allowed in areas “if there is not a roof over your head.” Hence, the courtyard is fair but inside the actual temple is a no-no. There’s plenty to photograph though and wonderful people watching, with women in traditional kimonos and adorable Japanese schoolgirls. A group of young Japanese teen boys actually asked Shaun to pose for a photo with them!
The shopping street known as the Nakamise is flooded with visitors, flocking to the unique shops with both gimmicky souvenirs and traditional gifts. Everything from expensive silk kimonos to “ice cream burgers,” you could find nearly anything.
A Glimpse Into The Future
Within the Sensō-Ji courtyard, you can donate $1 for your Omikuji – your fortune! It’s sort of a complex system which, thankfully, there was directions in English. First, you step up to the stand (below) and pick up a wooden box full of sticks. The box has a small hole on the side, and you shake the box until you get one of the small sticks to fall out. Each stick has Japanese characters inscribed, which you match to one of the many drawers (this was difficult since we obviously can’t read Japanese!). Once you eventually match your stick to a drawer, you pull out your fortune, which again thankfully, is translated to English!
You will either select a BAD, REGULAR or GOOD fortune. If it is regular or good, you are meant to happily accept it. However, if you have chosen a bad fortune, protocol calls for you to tie the bad fortune up on the nearby wire (above) and begin the process over for a new omikuji! I read somewhere that the tradition of tying up the bad fortune comes from the idea that the bad luck itself will wait by the tied paper, instead of following the person… Fingers crossed you have better luck next time!
Shaun chose a regular fortune, which read:
When spring comes, withered tree blooms so charming. The sweet smell fills in the wood field and the sky. Your fortune will go developing your chance. The bright moon comes to shine among the fading clouds. Meeting a person of high social status, his help will bring you a happy life.
Your request will be granted. The patient will get well soon. The lost article will be found. The person you wait for will come. Building a new house and removal are both well. Marriage and employment are both well. To start a trip is well.
On my first try, I was one of the sad souls who chose a bad fortune… I was disappointed but delighted that the tradition allows for another effort!
My second round gave me a good fortune (!!) which read:
Washing off all bad things in the past, now everything in clear and clean. The brilliant light and glorious flower came out clean again being washed so well. What you desire will finally gets profit, which means everything around you comes out quite well. Time passing by, everything turns out to be better, just like the sun shines all day long.
Your hopes will turn out to be real. Recover from sickness, but if careless, might be serious. The lost thing will be found and the person you wait for shows around. There are no problem of building and moving house. There are no worry about marriage, travel and employment.
Thank you Sensō-Ji! A very memorable day in Tokyo.