Incense smoke wafts out of the jokoro and over your body in a ritual act that’s been performed at the temple for the last four hundred years. The jokoro sits directly in front of the main hall of the Senso-ji Temple and is a place for you to purify your body before entering the sacred ground completed in 628- the oldest in Tokyo. The temple is dedicated to Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of mercy.
Coming to Japan was an act of purification I didn’t know I needed. Far away from all of my comforts, there was nothing left for me to hide behind. And in that stillness, I grew more connected to my passion and what drew me to travel in the first place even though I had to cry to get there.
The first thing that greets you on your way towards the temple is the Kaminarimon, the Thunder Gate. A great red lantern with a dragon carved on the bottom hangs in between to statues of the gods of Thunder and Wind. I was surprised to learn that the statues present are restorations of the original.
Past the first gate is a market that has existed almost as long as the temple itself with some of the stalls operated by the same family for over 100 years. The street crowded and full of sweets, gifts, and paraphernalia is called Nakamise-Dori.
Towards the end lies the second gate the Hozomon which again was destroyed twice since it was built in 942.
The temple and the Nakamise-Dori aren't the only things to enjoy while exploring this site of rich history.
There are so many additional shrines and gardens and statues that dot the area. There are shrines dedicated to the people who built the temple. Statues that remember the service of important women from Japanese history.
Once you are off the main strip you get to enjoy the more quiet side of this Buddhist temple. There's a shaded area off to the left that I sat at while eating a Japanese sweet bread filled with ice cream. I thought about how the temple and its many parts have been destroyed so many times the most damaging being the air raids during WWII. But in the spirit of rebirth and peace, they were crafted anew. I hope that everyone who comes to this shrine dedicated to mercy leaves with compassion and forgiveness in their hearts, the same way I did.
I always say as long as you learn from your experiences then you should never regret them. I learned so much in my sadness that I rediscovered a happiness I haven't felt in years. I can't wait to continue to share the happy memories I'm making here in Tokyo!