The many temples of Asakusa

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Last weekend, my housemate and I met up with a few of our friends do to some sight-seeing in Asakusa, an old district of Tokyo that is famous among tourists for its many temples.  It’s also well known for its large markets, and special rice crackers called senbei rice crackers (which I didn’t actually eat any of this time).  We met at a huge temple gate called Kaminarimon in front of the Sensoji temple.  Sensoji is the largest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, it’s gate marked by a larger-than-life lantern and a fair-sized crowd.  Kaminarimon means “Thunder Gate.”  Beyond that, leading up to the actual temple, are very long shopping rows of shops and food stands called the Nakamise shopping arcade.  This is the perfect spot for picking up souvenirs, as they have everything with a Japanese feel you could imagine, and anything your family and friends back home could possibly want from Tokyo.  It mostly has shops with trinkets, bags, clothes, and other goods, but scattered throughout are also stalls with trademark and traditional Japanese street foods and sweet snacks.  At the time we went, the sun was just setting and the lighting in the market felt magical, with glowing lanterns hanging in front of all the stalls that continued in a row as far as you could see.  The crowds had also started to dissipate since the shops would close soon.   We wandered lazily down the shopping arcade until we reached an open area with hundreds of white lanterns strung up in stacks.  We approached a huge incense bowl sitting in front of the ornate and beautifully lit temple.  It was quite a presentation.  The line to pray at this particular temple was so long that we decided not to wait.  Instead we wandered around the zen little gardens surrounding the huge building.  There were bonsai trees, small shrines, and a koi pond with a bridge over it.  It felt so peaceful.  On the bridge, a young Japanese girl was getting photographed in her kimono.  After wandering throughout this maze of greenery, we continued on past the temple, to a more urbanized section of Asakusa.  We were getting hungry and we walked through wide streets with restaurants lining both sides.  All of the tables were outside on the streets in front of the glowing restaurants and people were eating and talking cheerfully at their tables.  There were all types of food to choose from- ramen, okonomiyake, tamagoyaki, takoyaki- all pretty salty, fattening, and delicious.  A huge variety of all my favorite street foods. We chose a place with fried soba, fried chicken, and kimchi pancakes- one of my favorite Korean dishes.  We sat outside on the street and ordered a ton of dishes for everyone to share.  After we had our fill, we wanted some ice cream, so we went in search for some.  While we were wandering around, we saw Sky Tree- a famous, huge tower, similar to Tokyo Tower.  We decided that since we were so close, we might as well walk over to have a look.  Eventually we found some ice cream at 31 (which is what they called Baskin Robbins over here), and then made our way to Sky Tree.  It was a bit of a walk, but the magnificence of the tower made it worth it.  After taking a lot of pictures, we separated and took the train home.  I love taking the day to go sight-seeing!

Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo

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