September 6, 2010

Japan : The Famous Big Red Lantern

The big lantern is definitely a famous city landmark of Tokyo, or more precisely, Asakusa.

Known as Kaminarimon, it is the first of two large entrance gates leading to Sensoji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Old as it may look, the current temple is actually a reconstruction as the original building has been ruined during the World War 2.

Shopaholics won't find the visit boring, as there is a shopping street, Nakamise-dori, right after you enter the gate.

Tourists flock the street, looking for souvenirs to bring back home. Kimonos, yukatas, keychains, fridge magnets, handphone straps, folding fans or even the local snacks. 

The shopping street stretch out for some 200 metres, until the second gate, Hozomon.

As soon as you entered the Hozomon, you should spot a 5-storey pagoda on your left

and the main hall.

This temple is visited by thousands of worshippers and tourists everyday, a major attraction for Japanese and foreigners alike.

To the right of the temple, lies the Asakusa Shrine. Now, there is a difference between a temple and a shrine. I also just got to know about this during my recent trip. Previously, I thought a shrine is just another word for temple, and people in Japan use the word shrine to refer to a temple. Now only I know that shrine is a place for Shinto worship while a temple is a place for Buddhist worship.

The difference you can see is a temple usually has a wooden entry gate, flanked on either side by guardian gods, like Kaminarimon

while a shrine's entrance is marked by one or more torii gates, with a pair of guardian dogs or lions, called Komainu, often sit on each side of the entrance as well.

A temple has a large cauldron in front of it. Here, you can see visitors fan the smoke from the incense burner towards themselves. This is because the smoke is believed to have healing properties.

A shrine has a purification fountain or temizuya.

From what I see, it is almost similar to what us Muslim practice, the ablution before we perform the prayer.

Rinse your left hand. Rinse your right hand. Pour water into your left hand and rinse your mouth. Rinse the dipper. 

Such interesting things to learn. 

Anyway, if you wanna come here, take the Toei Asakusa subway line and get off at Station A-18 Asakusa. From the exit, it's only a 5 minute walk to Kaminarimon and on the way, there is a tourist information center for all the information that you need regarding the area. 

As developed as Tokyo has been, there is still a part of it which retains the old charm, and Asakusa is one of them.

If you come to Japan, this is definitely one of the places that you must visit!

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