Tokyo CHAPTER 9: The Neighborhood of Asakusa.
From old to new…
Asakusa is where the spirit of old Edo proudly lives. Anchoring Asakusa was Senjo-ji, perhaps the oldest Buddhist temple in the region. And old places always start with a legend…
Senso-ji enshrines a golden statue of Kannon. The statue was miraculously fished out of the nearby Sumida River by two fishermen in AD 628. In time, a structure was built to house the image, which has remained on the spot through successive reconstructions of the temple- including a complete postwar reconstruction following aerial bombings at the end of WWII.
The temple precinct begins at the majestic Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), which houses a pair of ferocious protective deities: Fujin, the god of wind, on the right; and Raijin, the god of thunder, on the left.
Straight on through the gate is the bustling shopping street Nakamise-dori. With over 80 stalls, everything is sold here from purses made with obi (kimono sash) fabric to Edo-style crafts and wigs to be worn with kimono. There are also stands specializing in salty, crunchy sembei (flavored rice crackers) and age-manju (deep-fried anko- bean paste- buns).
Nakamise-dori leads north to another gate, Hozo-mon, with fierce guardians you must pass to reach the main temple compound. Before the Hondo (Main Hall), smoke winds its way up from a huge incense cauldron around which people stand, wafting the smoke and its scent over their bodies and heads to ensure good health. Off the courtyard stands a 53m-high five-story pagoda, a 1973 reconstruction of a pagoda built by Tokugawa Iemitsu. The current structure is the second-highest pagoda in Japan.
Hondo (Main Hall): The Kannon image (a tiny 6cm) is isolated away from view deep inside the main hall, as is common in Buddhist temples in Japan. Nevertheless, a steady stream of worshippers makes its way to the temple, where they cast coins, pray and bow in a gesture of respect.
After visiting the temple, we stopped along some of the food stalls that surrounded the temple and grabbed some quick snacks and drinks:
Tokyo Sky Tree
Tokyo Sky Tree opened in May 2012 as the world’s tallest tower at 634m, nearly twice the height of Tokyo Tower (located in Roppongi), and is now a new and very popular Tokyo landmark. *In 2011, Tokyo Sky Tree was certified by Guinness World Records as the “tallest tower in the world.”*Sky Tree transmits radio waves for digital terrestrial and other forms of broadcasting. Transmission from over a 600m tower is expected to be less influenced from numerous high-story buildings in Tokyo.
Its silvery exterior of steel mesh stands on an equilateral triangle cross-section and, as it progresses upwards, it morphs into a circular cross-section. A circular upper structure has been employed to fend forces of winds from any direction off. There is a reinforced concrete pillar 375m in length in the center of Sky Tree. That pillar, along with the steel tower structures that surround it, move separately to absorb up to about 50% of seismic vibrations. This design was inspired by the structure of the traditional Japanese five-story pagoda, which has endured many earthquakes.
We visited the Sky Tree during the day, but the only tickets that were available to get into the observation deck were at night. So we got tickets and returned for a night view.
The first observation deck, the Tembo Deck at 350m, can be reached in less than a minute by elevator! There is also a restaurant and café on this level.
For the daredevils, like us, there is another observation deck at 450m for an extra charge. Situated beneath the digital broadcasting antennas, it’s a circular glass corridor that gives another beautiful view of Tokyo! They call this observation the Tembo Galleria, where you can take an “air walk” around the sloped 110m circle.
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Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!
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