The must-see Asakusa Temple (also known as Senso-ji or Asakusa Kannon) combines architecture, centers of worship, Japanese gardens, and traditional markets to offer visitors a modern-day look at Japan’s rich history and culture. Erected in AD 645 in what was once an old fishing village, Asakusa Temple was dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Stone statues of Fujin (the Shinto wind god) and Raijin (the Shinto thunder god) guard the entrance, known as Kaminarimon or the Thunder Gate. Next is Hozomon Gate, which leads to Nakamise’s shopping streets, filled with vendors selling handicrafts and Japanese snacks. Don’t miss the Asakusa Shrine or Kannon-do Hall.
Even those with little interest in religious architecture should include this top sight on their Tokyo itinerary. Asakusa Temple is quite unlike anything else in the city—and as one of Tokyo’s most popular attractions, it’s included in many city sightseeing tours that may also visit the Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Imperial Palace Plaza, the Tsukiji Fish Market, and the Nakamise-dori shopping district. For an in-depth experience in the Asakusa area, opt for a walking tour, rickshaw tour, or evening food tour.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Asakusa Temple is a must-see for first-time visitors to Tokyo.
- It’s possible to experience the temple on a themed tour of the Asakusa neighborhood or as part of a comprehensive city sightseeing tour.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes suitable for a variety of surfaces.
- Don’t forget your wallet—a variety of interesting shops dot the area.
How to Get There
Senso-ji is located in Asakusa, within central Tokyo’s Taito district. The temple is just a few steps away from Asakusa Station, which is served by Tobu Railways and the Ginza and Asakusa subway lines.
When to Get There
The temple grounds are always open. The main hall is open from 6am to sunset each day, but many of the shops don’t open until late morning. The temple can get crowded around midday, particularly on weekends, so if you’d like more elbow room, visit before 10am or after 6pm.
The Mystery of Kannon
According to local legend, in AD 628 a pair of fishermen discovered a golden statue of the goddess Kannon in the nearby Sumida River. The statue has allegedly been enshrined at the site since its construction 17 years later, but it has never been on public display. It’s hard to say whether the ancient image of Kannon exists, but it hasn’t stopped Asakusa from becoming Tokyo’s most visited temple.