According to its engisho (a document illustrating the origin of a temple), the history of Senso−ji Temple goes back to the 36th year of Empress Suiko’s reign, or 628AD. The engisho describes that in the early morning of March 18th of that year, Hamanari Hinokuma and his brother Takenari found a Buddhist statue caught in their fishing net while fishing in Etoura (the lower reaches of the Sumida River, then called the Miyato River), and showed it to Nakamoto Haji. After realizing that it was a divine statue of the Shokanze−bosatsu, Nakamoto Haji became a priest and turned his house into a temple dedicated to the statue.

Senso-ji’s history began at this spot. This is the structure that was built to enshrine the divine statue pulled from the Sumida River, on the exact site where the statue was found.

●Kaminarimon Gate
This is the outer gate of Senso−ji Temple, officially called the “Furaijinmon.” The gate was initially commissioned to be built in Komagata by the then Musashi District governor Kinmasa Taira. It was relocated to its current location during the Kamakura Period (1185−1333) or later.

●Hozomon Gate
This is the large main gate of Senso−ji Temple located near Kannon−do Hall past Nakamise−dori. It was built by Kinmasa Taira, while he was serving as governor of Abo district, in 942AD as a sign of gratitude after being granted his wish to become the governor of Musashi district. It was destroyed by several fires over the years but was rebuilt each time. Once called the “Niomon Gate” because of the two guardian statues situated on either side of the Sakuramon Gate, it is now called the “Hozomon”, or treasure house because it stores many of Senso−ji Temple’s treasures, including the Ganban Issaikyo, a government−designated important cultural property.
Hanging from the gate are a paper lantern and a pair of cast metal lanterns donated, respectively, by Kobuna Town and the local uogashiko, or fish merchant group. This tradition started when fish merchants working at the market consecrated a lantern as a sign of gratitude for favor showed them by Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa. You will also find a gigantic straw sandal hanging from the gate.

●Kannon−do Hall
This is the main hall of Senso−ji Temple, known as “Asakusa Kannon.” It was burnt down in an air raid on Tokyo during WWII and rebuilt in 1958. Facing south, Kannon−do Hall consists of a worship hall and an inner sanctum. It is open to the public during the daytime, when the main doors are open.

●The Asakusa Shrine
The most important shrine in Asakusa, it is also known as “Sanja−sama” or simply “Sanja” from the shrine’s former name, “Sanja Gongen.” The current shrine building was dedicated along with the Kannon−do Hall by Iemitsu Tokugawa, the third shogun of the Edo Period. Built in the gongen style of architecture, with its inner sanctum, middle hall and worship hall connected by corridors, it has been designated as an important cultural property by the Japanese government.
During the Sanja Matsuri festival, a festive atmosphere fills Asakusa as the residents of Ichinomiya, Ninomiya and Sannomiya parade through the town carrying portable shrines.

●Nitenmon Gate
This is the east entrance to Senso−ji Temple. It is located on the east side of Kannon−do Hall and on the right side of the Senso−ji Temple torii, or traditional temple gate. Serving also as the zuishinmon gate of Asakusa Toshogu Shrine, it had two deity statues−Toyoiwamado−no−mikoto and Kushiiwamado−no−mikoto−on either side, and was commonly called “Yadaijinmon” gate. In 1642, Toshogu Shrine was burned to the ground in a fire, leaving only the gate intact. It was renamed the “Nitenmon” following the separation of Shinto and Buddhism in the Meiji Period, when two guardian statues, or niten, were brought from a scripture house of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, which owned four guardian statues, or shitenno, and were enshrined inside this gate.

This pair of seated Buddhist statues which had been dedicated to Senso−ji Temple is also known as “Nurebotoke.” These are two of the most magnificent Buddha statues created during the Edo Period.

●Five−Storied Pagoda
This pagoda, enshrining Buddha’s ashes/tablet and stupa, was the first temple building to have aluminum alloy roof tiles with an appearance similar to those made from mud. This 53−meter high structure was built by Kinmasa Taira in 942.

●Yogo−do Hall
Enshrined here are the patron deities for people born in each year of the twelve zodiac signs. Built in 1994 to commemorate the 1,200th year since the birth of Saint Jikaku, Yogo−do Hall comprises a worship hall and an inner sanctum where a Seikannon Bosatsu statue is enshrined in the center of an alter accompanied by eight statues of the patron deities of the twelve zodiac signs on either side.

●Yakushi−do Shrine
Also known as “Hashimoto Yakushi−do,” this is one of the subordinate shrines that exist today within the precincts of Senso−ji Temple. Rebuilt by Iemitsu Tokugawa, this hosangen style structure is one of the oldest at Senso−ji Temple.

●Awashima−do Temple
Standing here are two towers, one commemorating those who hand−copied the Buddhist sutra and another commemorating peace. This is also a temple where people come to pay homage to their broken needles. A former Yogo−do Hall, it was renovated into Awashima−do Temple and relocated to the current location in 1995.

●Zenizuka Jizo Hall
This is the hall where people come to pray for good business. An old−style coin, “Kanei Tsuho,” is buried under the hall.

●Denpo−in Temple
This is the parent temple of Senso−ji and a place where monks perform ascetic practices. It consists of an entrance, a reception hall, a messenger’s room and a large kitchen, which were built in 1777, and a large study and a priest’s living room, which were built in 1871. Once called “Kannon−in” or “Chiraku−in,” it was renamed “Denpo−in” in 1690 after the title for Bishop Senzai IV. An Edo−style garden stretches along the left side of the path leading to the temple.

Enshrined here is the guardian deity of Denpo−in Temple. It is also known as “Otanuki−sama,” or raccoon dog, because, as legend goes, it was built after raccoon dogs appeared in a Denpo−in’s chief priest’s dream and told him that if he would protect them, they would, in return, protect the Denpo−in from fires.

This is a Senso−ji Temple benten−do hall called “Rojo Benten,” or old goddess benten, because the statue enshrined here has gray hair. On the top of a small hill stand a hall and a bell tower which was depicted in Matsuo Basho’s poem “Hana no kumo, kane ha Ueno ka Asakusa ka.” (A cloud of flowers! Is that the bell from Ueno or Asakusa?). On New Year’s Eve, the congregation of Senso−ji Temple, “Hyakuhachi−kai,” sounds the bell.

A street stretching from Senso−ji’s Kaminarimon Gate to Hozomon Gate, lined with festive stalls. It is commonly called “Nakamise”.

●Matsuchiyama Shoten
This is one of the subordinate temples of Senso−ji, located on Matsuchiyama, a hill on the west side of the Sumida River. Commonly called “Shoten−san,” it appeared in the paintings of Katsushika Hokusai, Ando Hiroshige and many other famed artists of that time.

●Henjo−in Temple / Daikannon−ji Temple
These are subordinate temples of Senso−ji. Henjo−in Temple is located in 6−chome of Asakusa, and is said to have once been the residence of Katsushika Hokusai. Enshrined at Daikannon−ji Temple is the head of an iron Seikannon statue, which used to be enshrined at Shin−Shimizu Temple in Kamakura built by Masako Hojo, who had became a follower of Shimizu Kannon in Kyoto in the Kamakura Period.

◆History ◆Asakusa Shrine ◆Chronological Table
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  • 変身遊び変身遊び
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