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Kaminarimon Gate, Senso-ji Temple and the Best Fortune
Welcome to the most famous temple in Tokyo!
Kaminarimon Gate is huge, red and beautiful. It leads the way to Senjo-ji Temple, the oldest and most famous temple in Tokyo. If you're ever in Tokyo, don't miss it! Until you visit, here's a quick look.
It seems like every tourist in Tokyo makes time for Kaminarimon Gate. That's impressive considering what else is going on in Japan's capital and biggest city. For example, there's fashion in Shibuya, Akihabara's gorgeous AKB48, shopping in Ginza and so on. Still, tradition and culture holds its own and tourists make their pilgrimage.
So what gives? Why should you go? What makes it so cool? Keep reading and find out!
Kaminarimon Gate: a closer look
The Kaminarimon Gate (or Thunder Gate) is famous in its own right. Every Japanese temple has a gate--they are all red and beautiful. Kaminarimon is by far the largest. It is 11.7 m (38.38 ft) tall and 11.4 m (37.4 ft) wide. A large red lantern hangs from the center. The kanji on the lantern reads "Kaminarimon" (Thunder Gate).
When facing the gate, you'll see Raijin in the left pillar and Fujin in the right pillar. Raijin is the ancient god of thunder and Fujin is the ancient god of wind. These guys are ugly and angry. They must be popular because I've seen them depicted in other gates of other temples as well.
The Kaminarimon Gate we all see was built in 1960. It is a reconstruction of the original. Unfortunately, since its first appearance in 941 it has been destroyed many times. This is easy to forget as countless tourists from all over the world gather around for their own picture in front of Kaminarimon Gate.
If you want to take your picture under or near the gate then get ready because about a hundred other people do too. Every picture you end up with will include about a dozen other people posing in it.
Still, the experience was breathtaking. To see something with such an ancient tradition in such a modern city was amazing. I'll never forget its size and beauty.
Senso-ji Temple: A closer look
One thing that makes Kaminarimon and Senso-ji so popular is their location. It is very close to the Asakusa Station on the Ginza Line. As soon as you get out of the station, there will be signs all over to lead the way.
It's also a fun place to do some shopping. Seriously. Between the gate and the temple is a pedestrian path called Nakamise-dori. It's lined with small shops selling all kinds of trinkets that tourists love: t-shirts, stationary, postcards and so on. Some places even sell katanas! These are very dangerous and expensive.
Vendors have been selling things along the Nakamise-dori since ancient times. Some of today's souvenirs are traditional items or have traditional themes but most were not. At times, it made me feel like I was at the mall.
Senso-ji more than makes up for it. It is the perfect counterpart to Kaminarimon. It is massive, beautiful and even has its own red lantern. Tourists and Buddhists alike make their trek. In fact, the number of Westerners I saw all day was alarming. We all gave our offerings and said our prayers.
The Kaminarimon Gate is here at Senso-ji Temple
Kaminarimon Gate and Senso-ji Temple
The best fortune
One thing tourists all love to do at a Japanese temple is get their fortunes. So why not take a chance? A few minutes later I was looking at the best fortune I've ever seen. The perfect fortune completes a perfect experience.
I mostly travel the Kansai area. My habitat includes Kobe, Nara, Kyoto and Osaka. Tokyo had my head spinning more than any other city I've ever been in. Still, I'll do it all over in a second.
Needless to say there's a lot more going on in Tokyo than the Kaminarimon and Senso-ji. For more take a look at the book here.