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Published on March 31, 2014

Overall View of Kinryuzan Senso-ji Temple


Inner Temple (Kannon-do) in Senso-ji Temple


Basho Matsuo (1644-1694), a haiku poet in the Edo Period who was born in Iga-ueno (present Iga City, Shiga Prefecture) and lived in the Nihonbashi and Fukagawa areas, composed a haiku which reads, "A cloud of flowers, Is that the bell from Ueno or Asakusa?," referring to the hour bells of Toeizan Kan-eiji Temple in Ueno and Kinryusan Senso-ji Temple. Basho Matsuo, who built and lived in a hermitage called "Hakusen-do" at Fukagawa, might heard the bell of Senso-ji Temple while enjoying cherry blossoms in full bloom around the Sumida River area. After Basho Matsuo's death, a stone monument on which is engraved, "When I looked at Senso-ji Temple's tiled roof, I saw a cloud of flowers." was erected in the precincts of Senso-ji Temple, commemorating his death. (The monument is now placed beside the bell tower on Mt. Benten on which Benten-do Temple stands.)
In 645, Shokai-shonin received a divine message in his dream that the principal image in Kinryusan Senso-ji Temple should be kept secret, so the image has never been open to the public up to the present. Asakusa facing Tokyo Bay was developed as the number of believers who visited Senso-ji Temple grew. In the early Heian Period, Jikaku-daishi Ennin (794-864), a restorer of Senso-ji Temple and the third chief abbot of Enryaku-ji Temple, visited Senso-ji Temple, and carved a replica of the principal image. In the Kamakura Period, the Shogunate became believers of Senso-ji Temple, and famous warlords also came to believe in and protect the temple. As a result, its scale was further expanded. In the early Edo Period, Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) designated the temple as the Shogunate's prayer temple, and its dignity was further enhanced. Senso-ji Temple and the Asakusa area continued to thrive as a center of the Edo culture. Senso-ji Temple, the oldest temple in Tokyo, which is also called "Asakusa Kannon," has attracted widespread popularity. It has become the center of the folk belief, to which a total of more than 30 million worshippers visit in a year. (continued in the lower column)




Inner Temple (Kannon-do) in Senso-ji Temple


The Asakusa area was a place facing Tokyo Bay in the Kamakura and Muromachi Periods. Since the area faced the bay at that time and was located alongside the Sumida River, ships laden with goods gathered in the area. It was developed as a place of great commercial importance, where many people came in and out.
"Azumakagami," a history book compiled in the Kamakura Period, says that there were many monks at Senso-ji Temple at that time. Many tiles made in the middle ages have been unearthed in the temple precincts, so it turns out that it was a tile-roofed temple. Since tiles at that time are heavier than modern tiles, and the strong roof structure made with sturdy boards, such as a Japanese nutmeg board, was needed in order to support the roof, it appears that Senso-ji Temple has been a magnificent temple. However, the temple was repeatedly burnt down due to wartime fires or disasters. Denpo-in located in the temple precincts was destroyed by the Great Fire of Meiwa in 1772, and valuable ancient documents were lost. In 1865, Kaminari-mon and 14 sub-temples in the temple precincts were destroyed by a fire occurred in Asakusa. In 1945, the former inner temple, which was built by Iemitsu Tokugawa and was designated as a National Treasure, Nio-mon, five-storied pagoda, and "Rinzo," a scripture house, were burnt down due to war damage. The present, imposing inner temple was designed and rebuilt by Architect Minoru Ooka (1900-87), who also conducted a number of repair and conservation work for protected buildings, in 1958. It adopted a traditional Japanese method of roofing, that is, the Asuka style, and was made of reinforced concrete which is resistant to fire. In the large scale maintenance and repair work in the Heisei Period, its exterior walls were repaired and reroofing was carried out, spending more than two years from February 2009. This maintenance and repair work was completed in November 2010. Titanium tiles were used for the roofs in order to reduce the weight and withstand earthquakes. The exterior of the temple was beautifully restored.





"Ryu-no Zu," (1956) or image of a dragon, by Ryusi Kawabata is depicted on the center of the outer chamber's ceiling of the inner temple, and "Tennin-no Zu," (1957) or image of a heavenly being, by Insho Domoto on both sides of it.


Yogo-do in Senso-ji Temple
Buddhist saints who support the Bodhisattva of Compassion to preach are called "Yogoshu." These saints are enshrined in this temple. The present, reinforced concrete Yogo-do was built in 1994. It has a hipped roof with the Shikoroyane style. The Bodhisattva of Compassion is enshrined at the center of the sanctuary's dais, and eight guardian deities representing zodiac signs at both sides of it.


Awashima-do in Senso-ji Temple
In the precincts of Senso-ji Temple, there are many historic temples, including Kaminari-mon that is a symbol of Asakusa, Hozo-mon, a five-storied pagoda, Yogo-do, Awashima-do, Chingo-do, Benten-do, Niten-mon, Yakushi-do, Zenizuka Jizo-do and Denpo-in. Also, beside the Komagata-kyo Bridge, there is Komagata-do, which was built at a place associated with the foundation of Senso-ji Temple, where the Bodhisattva of Compassion, which is the principal image of the temple, manifested itself and landed at. Batokannon, or an image of Kannon that has a human body with the head of a horse, is enshrined in Komagata-do.




Senso-ji Temple's Website

Kinryuzan Senso-ji Temple has its origin in a legend: "On March 18, 628, two fishermen brothers, Hamanari and Takenari Hinokuma, found a statue caught in a net in the Sumida River, and took it home. When they showed it to Haji no Nakatomo, an influential person, it turned out that it was a valuable statue of the Sacred Avalokitesvara. Therefore, they built a temple, enshrined and worshiped the statue in it." Since then, Senso-ji Temple was repeatedly burnt down. Although the greater part of the temple was destroyed in the Great Tokyo Air Raid, Denpo-in, Tokino-kane, Niten-mon and Asakusa Shrine were saved from the war damage. (Asakusa 2-chome, 3-1, Taito City)