The Senso-ji temple in Asakusa
Many of us have heard of Senso-ji temple in Asakusa , which is the most visited temple in Tokyo, and the most popular among tourists. It is located in the Asakusa district that became a tourist landmark. There is a huge shopping street called Nakamise-dôri leading to the temple and that is full of stalls and small gift shops.
Many people know this temple, but few of them know about its history and what makes it one of the most important temples in Japan…
The Senso-ji temple is actually the oldest one in Tokyo: its history goes back a long time ago. It was built in 645, during the Asuka period, when Buddhism arrived in Japan and was declared as the state religion by the Empress Suiko (who reigned from 593 to 628).
It was built to honor the goddess Avalokitesvara, known as Kannon in Japanese, and who is probably the most venerated and most popular bodhisattva among Buddhist people. Two brothers had actually caught on the Sumida River a statue of the goddess Kannon. Then the head of the village, Haji no Nakamoto, did a sermon to Buddha. Both brothers were impressed and converted to Buddhism too. The three men dedicated their lives to preach Buddhism and built what is now known as the Senso-ji temple.
In 1645, during the Edo period, the shogun Tokugawa Iemistu rose to the rank of gods those men to honor them and built the Asakusa Shrine, also known as Sanja-sama (三社様), which literally means the sanctuary of the three gods.
This is also in the Asakusa shrine that takes place one of the three major Japanese Shinto festivals and that is dedicated to the three gods: the Sanja Matsuri. It is every third Sunday of May. It will be this weekend, for those who might be interested!