Senso-ji and Shitamachi

The story behind the photo.

Main Hall, Sensō-ji

Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan

Shot - May, 2016

I love the dramatically sloping roof of the main hall at Sensō-ji temple, it's almost disproportionate height. The endless mass of tourists and the faithful, come to pray to Kannon, the goddess of mercy, a statue of whom is hidden from view in the inner sanctum.

Golden Week has to be the worst time to goto a tourist attraction that is visited by 30 million people a year. Even in workaholic Japan, most people take time off during Golden Week.

But it was the first trip to Japan I had made with my family, and my first visit since I left in 2009. And Senso-ji is always crowded, and alway was, as evidenced by this Hiroshige print.

The temple is in Asakusa, the old part of Tokyo known as shitamachi, literally "lower town". It's known for it's (even more) narrow streets and close knit neighbourhoods. My Aunt is from this part of town and knows the area like the back of her hand.

Shitamachi was the marshy part of the city, by the sea, where the artisans and merchants were. The fancy part of town is on higher ground to the west. Asakusa was in fact a fishing village before Tokyo was even Edo.

The founding story of the temple goes that 2 fishermen caught a statue of Kannon (aka Avalokiteśvara, the Boddhisatva of compassion) in their net in the Sumida River. News of this event led to the founding of the temple in 645, making Senso-ji the oldest temple in Tokyo.

The temple has been destroyed and rebuilt a few times since then. Most recently it was flattened by a US bombing raid in 1945. This is what the main hall looked like before that.

The girls in kimonos lent by my aunt, who is a kimono dresser, luckily.

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