Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Old Tokyo Of Asakusa

Short note: I have finally come to my final post on my spring break trip and it took me almost three months to finish posting all of them when it's already going to be summer now wtf. I know I took like ages to be done with all of them and you must be bored to be dished out with so many travelogues all these months. Bare with me for one last time, okay? And soon enough, I will blog about my summer trip pulak. Haha, no lah, I am bluffing only.
As one of the final stop during my spring trip more than a couple of months ago, I went to Asakusa, the centre of Tokyo's shitamachi, (literally it means "low city"), one of Tokyo's few districts which have preserved a certain atmosphere of the old Tokyo. Similar to the first two days of my trip, I got someone to accompany me to Asakusa. When I asked Joann if she would like to join me there, she jumped to my offer immediately even though she had just touched down in Tokyo from her spring holiday in Malaysia. We went out early to avoid the crowd as Asakusa is one of the main spots during the New Year celebrations in Japan which sees people coming in thousands crowding the place at the beginning of each year.
For many centuries, Asakusa used to be Tokyo's leading entertainment district. During the Edo Period, when the district was still located outside the city limits, Asakusa was the site of kabuki theaters and a large red light district. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, modern types of entertainment, including movies, set foot in Asakusa. Large parts of Asakusa were destroyed in the air raids of World War Two. While the area around the rebuilt Sensoji has regained its former popularity after the war, the same cannot be said for Asakusa's entertainment district. Asakusa can be easily explored on foot as all the places of interest are within the proximity of the train station. Alternatively, a guided tour on a rickshaw called 人力車 (jinrikisha) is also available, but they cost quite a bit. A 30 minute tour for two person costs around 8000yen (RM270). Shorter and longer courses are also available.
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Sensoji Temple.
The main attraction of this small district would be Sensoji (also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple), Tokyo's most famous and popular Buddhist temple. Built in the 7th century, it makes this temple as one of its oldest, although the current buildings are post-war reconstructions. The legend says that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Sensoji was built there for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645, making it Tokyo's oldest temple.
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Kaminarimon, the outer gate.
When approaching the temple, visitors first enter through the Kaminarimon, the outer gate of the Sensoji and the first of two large entrance gates leading to Sensoji Temple built more than 1000 years ago. It is a symbol of Asakusa and there is never a time that area is free without people taking pictures there. Kaminarimon literally means "Thunder Gate", and I bet a picture featuring the "Thundercats" posing in front of the gate will fetch hefty cash.
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The shopping street of Nakamise.
Sensoji Temple is approached via the Nakamise, a shopping street line by over 50 shops of over 200 meters that has been providing temple visitors with a variety of traditional local snacks and typical array of Japanese souvenirs such as yukata and folding fans. The shopping street has a history of several centuries. Nakamise, leads the outer gate of Kaminarimon to the temple's second gate, the Hozomon.
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Hozomon, the main gate.
Beyond the Hozomon main gate stands the temple's main building and a five storied pagoda. The Asakusa Shrine, built in the year 1649 by Tokugawa Iemitsu can be found close by the temple's main building.
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Sensoji main building.

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Five storied pagoda within the area of Sensoji Temple.
I entered the interior of the temple to perform some praying rites, along with the other visitors to the temple. Initially, I didn't know that it is a Buddhist temple as I thought it is another Shinto temple, until Joann told me about that. One of those times when I didn't do some slight research on the places I was going to visit.
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The main hall where people offer their prayers.

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Another dragon painting on the ceiling inside the temple.

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A Buddha statue outside the temple.
The weather turned bad when we were leaving Sensoji Temple as it started to drizzle. However, it stopped after a few moments and we thought of walking around Sumida Park which is just a few steps away from the station. This riverside park stretches along both sides of Sumida River for several hundred meters. The timing was perfect when we were there because the cherry blossoms were at their full bloom, although it didn't offer the sight as magnificent as Ueno Park.
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Sakura blooming along Sumida River.
At the same place, there are also services for cruises along Sumida River. Sumida River sightseeing ships operate every 30 to 60 minutes from Asakusa Pier via Hama Rikyu Garden to Hinode Pier, where transfer to a ship to Odaiba is possible. In addition, there are some direct ships from Asakusa to Odaiba. All the cruises are offered at a reasonably price that ranges between 450yen (RM15) to 1,500yen (RM50).
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This is one of the unusual ships with a futuristic design.
Just opposite Sumida River will be the sight of Asahi Beer Tower. The Asahi Beer Tower and Asahi Super Dry Hall with its characteristic Flamme d'Or were, completed in 1989 and host the headquarters of Asahi Breweries with several restaurants can be found in the complex.
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With nothing much left to go, we left Asakusa by mid-day, not before I walked passed this stall selling Paris kebab.
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This bloke looks like he was posing to my camera.


zhenhui said...

yes!!!!!!!first comment!!!!!!!
i am not particularly fond of temples...or castles...
because you have to waaaallllkkk...
and waaaaallllllkkkk....
and waaaaaaaaaallllllllllllkkkkkk...
to see...a building...
or buildingS.
tired like cow weh..

Kevin Tan said...

the dragon painting very the nice! and the kebab guy so cute hahaha

calvin said...

@ zhen hui:
me either. but i've never been to asakusa and i had an extra day in tokyo. that is why i ended up there.

walking is good wert.
good for your brain.
and in the end, you get a cow brain ;)

calvin said...

@ kevin tan:
i know you can paint better than that.
and that kebab guy was staring at someone's butt wtf =.=

mg said...

din try paris kebab meh? lol..

calvin said...

@ michelleg:
no, because that kebab guy was giving me a seductive look. lol xD