Japanese temples and shrines


Senso-ji temple

While touring the Asakusa region of Tokyo, we visited the magnificent Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple which houses a golden statue of the goddess Kannon. This statue was first discovered in 628 A.D. by two fishermen at the bottom of Sumidagawa river -- Tokyo's main river. The temple was built to enshrine this treasure. The main gate to the temple is guarded by two protective deities named Fugin and Raijin (gods of wind and thunder).

Certain rituals are common practice at all temples in Japan. Many have a large incense cauldron where visitors go to rub smoke on their bodies, paying special attention to parts which are ailing them. The smoke is thought to remove negative energy and promote good health. Worshippers approach the altar to the temple and make a small offering (generally a 5 yen coin) before praying. After prayer, a paper fortune - an omikuji - can be bought for 100 yen. These fortunes are rarely good and thus, once read, the omikuji are often tied to a tree so the wind can blow the bad luck away.


Alison tying her omikuji to the tree

The Shinto religion, literally meaning 'the way of the gods', is based on an appreciation of nature where the sun, water, trees and rocks (!) all have their own god (kami). Shinto shrines are generally erected in places which are particularly sacred and serene. The Benzaiten shrine, located in the center of Ueno Park, shows a colorful display of lanterns outside its main entrance.


Benzaiten shrine