A few months ago we covered the topic of Yasukuni Shrine and the contrasting perspectives that people have in regards to it. Well on that same day my friends and I decided to also visit Asakusa Shrine, the most famous shrine in the Tokyo area. Unsurprisingly there was a massive amount of people trying to get photos with friends and family around the large lantern under the gate.
Interestingly the shrine complex is primarily a Buddhist temple going by the name of Sensoji yet right by this temple is also Asakusa Shrine; ultimately these two areas of worship demonstrate the intertwined history of the Buddhist and Shinto religions in the country. Founded in the 5th century, the temple is by far the oldest in Tokyo yet the current building is not the original. Not even this important icon was spared the fires of the Second World War, it was bombed to ashes during the Tokyo Air Raids but was rebuilt following the war.
The path up towards the shrine was lined with lots of little food stalls as well as souvenir and toy shops all illuminated with a white fluorescent light and red lanterns and in order to advance towards the temple it was necessary to weave through the crowded pathway full of people shopping and enjoying themselves in the autumn night. The next gate leading to the temple was even more massive than the first; decorated with a pattern of red and white which contrasted the jade green tiles of the roof. In the background the Tokyo Sky Tree was visible, creating an interesting contrast of Japanese antiquity and modernity that is representative of Tokyo.
At 634 meters ( 2,080 ft.) Tokyo’s Skytree is the second tallest structure in the world, by far towering over all of Tokyo. The design is quite futuristic while also keeping the shape of a pine-tree for which it is named for. At nighttime it is lit up in different colors but Christmas time sees Tokyo Skytree being lit up as if it were a Christmas tree. From atop of Skytree the view of Tokyo is stunning, the sprawling expanse of the densely packed urban landscape is most evident from this height. On a clear day, building after building can be seen stretching out into the horizon as the iconic Mt. Fuji towers over the city in the background. It’s a worthwhile but admittedly a bit expensive experience.
After our trip to Sensoji, my Japanese friend Ryo took my friends and I to a sushi bar which was a bit expensive since we were used to sushi-ro‘s cheap prices but the quality of sushi was really good. The restaurant was your typical conveyor belt sushi restaurant but in the center you could see sushi chefs preparing your food right in front of you. The secret to good sushi is of course the quality of rice and you can definitely taste the difference. It’s also important to note that the fish had a distinctive fishy taste that you can only get by using not so fresh fish. contrary to what many people believe, fresh fish does not make for good sushi because fresh fish has no real taste to it. So it may be worth skipping the fresh fish places and go for a slightly not so fresh fish in order to have the full flavor of fish.
After a night full of sightseeing, O-mikuji (fortune) readings and of course food, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed Asakusa. It is absolutely one of the must see places if you happen to be in Tokyo.