Monday, June 24, 2013

Sensoji and the Sumida River

Sumida River, Tokyo (May 22, 2012)

My next couple of days in Japan, being busy at the meeting, I didn't have any time to go around and take photos. The third day, however, we went with the whole SAGE band on a mini-tour of central Tokyo. Our first destination was the Sensoji temple. The legend says that the temple was built in the year 628 by two fishermen brothers. While they were fishing in the nearby Sumida river, they found a golden statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. What do you do when you find a golden statue in the river? Well, you throw it back, which is what they did. Of course that won't work with a true goddess statue, merciful or not, and they kept fishing it back over and over, until they figured out it must have been a sign, and started to build a temple in her honor. The temple was completed in 645, making it the oldest temple in Tokyo.

Sensoji temple (May 22, 2012)
The temple is still a huge attraction, for foreign and local tourists alike. I saw many school groups visiting the temple (see small photo on the left) and the large open air market selling all kind of japanese snacks, sweet candies and souvenirs. Note how one of the schoolgirls in the photo has a surgical mask: wearing a mask is just another evidence of the high sense of civic duty of japanese people. She is not wearing the mask to protect herself, but rather to protect everybody else from the flu germs she may be carrying. Very noble sentiment, given that you really don't want to get a flu if you can avoid it, especially if you are doing some tourism in Japan (but more on that in a later post). The temple is impressive, as is the huge gate at its entrance, and a tall five story pagoda with a weird giant straw sandal sticking from one side.

After spending a couple of hours at the temple, we to a boat tour on the river Sumida. The river is actually a branch of the larger Arakawa river, formed in the Meji era to reduce the risk of flooding. It ends in the Tokyo bay, passing through modern neighborhoods with tall commercial and residential buildings all the way to the Tsukiji fish market. And many, many bridges.

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