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What You Should Know About Senso-ji, One Of Tokyo’s Most Famed Temples

By Devin Lowe | May 07, 2019, 12:01 a.m. (ET)


The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 run July 24-Aug. 9, 2020, and while they are still 15 months away there’s a lot to learn on your quest to becoming the ultimate fan. Each Tuesday leading up to the Games, TeamUSA.org will present a nugget you should read about – from athletes to watch to storylines to follow to Japanese culture and landmarks – as part of “Tokyo 2020 Tuesday.” Follow along on social media with the hashtag #Tokyo2020Tuesday.


Few structures illustrate Tokyo’s rich history better than the colorful Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple in the Asakusa district associated with Kannon, who is the considered the goddess of compassion. Established in 645 A.D., the temple is Japan’s oldest and has attracted Buddhists, locals and tourists alike for centuries as both a place of worship and a historical destination.

Legend has it that the beginnings of the temple stretch back to 628 A.D., when two brothers pulled a statue of Kannon, a bodhisattva — an individual on the path to becoming a buddha — from the river. To honor Kannon, the chief of the brothers’ village transformed his own home into a temple to house the drowned statue and create a place for people to worship the bodhisattva.

Over the years, the grounds of Senso-ji grew beyond the temple, encompassing the Shinto Shrine, the Asakusa Shrine and the Nakamise-dori, a street lined with shops that leads to the temple’s steps. Adjacent to the temple is a famous five-story pagoda, which was rebuilt after the original Edo-period structure was destroyed during World War II.

Today, Senso-ji draws around 30 million visitors per year from all over the world. It is especially popular in May, during the Sanja Matsuri festival. To get to Senso-ji from the Olympic Stadium, take the Chuo-Sobu line from the Sendagaya Station to the Asakusabashi Stadium, then get on the Asakusa Line to Asakusa Station. Enter through the Kaminarimon ("Thunder Gate"), another popular photo spot for tourists on Senso-ji’s grounds.


A photo of the Kaminarimon leading to Sensoji Temple on July 8, 2008 in Tokyo.