MID-TERMS ARE OVER!
To celebrate, a few friends and I decided to taste the more “touristy” side of Japan. This is Asakusa, known for its plethora of winding shopping streets, temples and shrines, rickshaw runners, and street food stands.
It was a clear and sunny day, which was a welcome surprise after the past few days of constant dark clouds. The main entrance to Asakusa is called Kaminarimon, and it’s a red gate with a huge red lantern (which is what the temple is famous for). From the gate, Tokyo Sky Tree was visible, towering over the rest of the buildings.
As depicted in the picture above, the street is incredibly crowded. I said Asakusa was touristy, right? The majority of the people walking the street are tourists, so many of the vendors speak English (for those of you who want to explore but know very little of the language, this is a perfect place to start). The shops sell a large variety of goods from toys and games to keychains and coin purses to full kimono and yukata sets.
One of the activities you should look into if you plan on going to a temple or shrine is omikuji （御神籤). These are sheets of paper with your fortune written on them, which you are given by shaking a box of sticks and the stick that appears corresponds to the drawer with your fortune card in it. They range from great curse (the worst) to great blessing (the best). If you get a bad fortune, don’t panic! There are places to tie your bad fortune to so you don’t take the bad luck with you. Sahara and Marie took a few tries, but a good fortune finally appeared.
Another religious activity you might be interested in deals with the huge smoking pot in front of the main approach to the temple. It’s filled with incense sticks that you can purchase for about 100yen each. The resulting smoke is supposed to bless you if you waft it towards you. Want to become smarter? Waft the smoke towards your head. Want to become richer? Waft the smoke towards your wallet.
If you’re really dedicated to visiting a lot of shrines and temples, you may want to look into obtaining a shuincho (朱印帳）to collect goshuin (御朱印). Goshuin are like stamps that you can collect from almost every temple or shrine in Japan. They are handwritten by a monk or a kannushi, and have the temple/shrine’s seal, name, and date. Each one is very special. Senso-ji offers two goshuin, but most places only offer one.
After praying at the temple, we walked around the shopping side streets a little bit. Asakusa has one shop in particular that is known for its large melon pan filled with ice cream. They also offer a spot to dress up and take photos with plastic versions of the bread.