Senso-ji Temple in Japan and snack crackers

Today we decided to venture to Senso-ji Temple, which is a Buddhist temple located in Tokyo’s Asakusa district. The temple itself is a majestic-looking building that is approached by walking underneath the imposing “Thunder Gate” and down a small street, Nakamise-dori, that is lined with…souvenir shops. Yes, that’s right. On your way to visit the oldest temple in Tokyo, you can stop off for some snack crackers, Hello Kitty toys, or a t-shirt. The snack crackers were by far the most popular – they had all shapes, sizes, and flavours. Never ones to pass up a shopping opportunity, I browsed in a few shops before approaching the temple itself.

In front of the temple, there was a large incense burner and people stood around it waving the smoke around. We later learned that the smoke wafting over the body is suppose to be an act of purification, and if there is any part of your body that is giving you trouble, you should try to direct the smoke there.

The rest of the temple grounds were quite pretty with gardens and a pagoda. By the time we had finished exploring the temple, we decided it was time for lunch. The guidebook recommended a small tempura restaurant just outside of the temple grounds. We pointed at what we wanted in the window (shrimp and vegetable tempura over rice) and were escorted upstairs, to a room with tatami mats. We removed our shoes and sat on cushions on the floor at the table. The tempura was quite good, and the meal was pretty inexpensive.

After lunch, we decided to take the Sumida River Cruise to get a different view of Tokyo. It was pretty much a typical city river cruise, lots of bridges, lots of tall apartment buildings, etc. One interesting thing was the number of homeless men living along the side of the river. Rather than the typical (in the U.S.) sleeping bag or tarp, these guys had built whole houses out of cardboard, creating the effect of a small cardboard village along the side of the river. Homelessness is, apparently, a rising problem in Tokyo and one that the Japanese government has not been overly responsive to. We walked around a bit more after the river cruise, but decided to head back to the hotel early, as we have an early morning tomorrow!

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