Tokyo: Visit Senso-ji, the City’s Oldest Temple
Get There: 3-1 Asakusa 2-chome, Taito-ku.
Majestic, colourful Senso-ji is swarming with tourists every day of the week. In fact, its main temple, Kannon-do, is the most visited spiritual site in the world, but for good reason: it’s incredible. According to legend, in 628AD, two brothers fishing in the Sumida River found a golden statue of the Buddhist deity Kannon. Whenever they tried to get rid of it, it would come back, so eventually, someone built a temple to house it.
Once you walk through Sensoji’s Kaminarimon entrance gate, you’ll encounter a centuries-old shopping street called Nakamise, which groans with wares like masks, yukata, fans and tasty local snacks. After passing Denpoin (another temple), you’ll enter a second gate swathed in wafts of incense. This is the sign that you’ve reached Kannon-do.
Climb the stairs and, once inside, admire the beautiful interior and look upwards, as much of the ceiling is adorned with art. It’s also a great chance to find out what the future has in store for you. Along the walls are stacks of wooden drawers marked with Japanese characters. Post 100 yen in the slot, then shake the small box of sticks whilst making a wish. Once you pull a stick out, match its number with a drawer, and inside will be a paper fortune written in both Japanese and English. If your future is good, well fabulous; if it’s bad, simply tie the piece of paper to what looks like a small clothesline next to you, and leave it there, successfully evading any bad luck that may have otherwise followed you home.
After you’ve paid your respects at Senso-ji, it’s definitely worth strolling the surrounding area: there are hundreds of restaurants and shops, and also probably hundreds of locals who have come to pay their respects dressed in traditional Japanese dress (which you too can rent if you really wanna get into the spirit of things). Oh – and visiting hours are from 6am until 5pm.