Paying respect to the gods. The pursuit of true happiness. Pitching coins for good luck. These are the main elements that come into place at the Asakusa Shrine and Complex in Tokyo, Japan.The Asakusa Shrine pays homage to the three men who established the Senso-ji temple nearby. The story says that over a thousand years ago, two brothers, Hinokuma Takenari and Hinokuma Hamanari, were fishing one day when they found a statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of Mercy. The village chief, Haji no Nakatomo, saw this as an important sign and had the Senso-ji temple built. The two brothers converted to Buddhism and spent the rest of their lives advancing this religion. Up to now, these three devoted men are revered and considered as deities themselves. That is why the shrine is also nicknamed Sanja-sama or the shrine of the three gods.The Shrine is also one of Japan's favorite sites when they want to pray for happiness, luck, good health and prosperity. Incense and candles are burned in the name of Kannon, who is believed to have great powers in granting the wishes of those who pray to her. When inside, be sure to look up, for there are fascinating paintings on the ceiling. You can also buy wishes at the shrine and temple and burn them while you pray, ensuring that you inhale the smoke as your wishes burn.The Asakusa Shrine plays host to several religious festivals in Tokyo, the most popular of Sanja Matsuri in May. This festival is among Tokyo's grandest religious events, attracting over a million visitors during its three-day celebration. The grand celebration involves a fantastic procession with dancers and musicians parading the streets of Asakusa and the bearing of shrines, particularly the portable ones found in the Asakusa Shrine.Meanwhile, the Sensoji Temple also attracts its share of devotees. To approach the temple, you get to pass through Kaminari-mon (Thunder Gate), then on to the Hozo-mon Gate (Main Gate). Here, Nio, or Guardian deities, stand guard to prevent evil from entering the temple. The gate is festooned with paper lanterns placed by a group of fish market vendors in gratitude to Tokugawa Ieyasu. The temple's main hall (Kannondo) contains three important shrines used during the Sanja Festival. There is also the Goju-no-To (Five Storied Pagoda). This 53-meter pagoda contains the memorial tablet and ashes of the Buddha. There is also another gate, Niten Mon, at the east of the Sensoji Temple. The modest temple and shrine have grown to include several shrines and attractions that are worth a visit. There is the Yogodo Hall, which is a memorial to Jikaku. Saint Jikaku is instrumental in rebuilding the Sensoji Temple. Then, there is the Komagatado Temple, the birthplace of the Sensoji Temple. This was built right on the spot where the statue was fished from the river. Meanwhile, the Yakushido Shrine is among the oldest buildings in the complex. At the same time, the Awashimado Temple features a tower for peace and commemorates the people responsible for the hand-copying of sutras. If you want to pray for prosperity, visit the Iizuka Jizo, where some old Japanese coins are buried. There is also the Chingodo Shrine (which is dedicated to the Denpoin Temple's guardian) and the Bentendo Hall (which is dedicated to the goddess Benten.Besides praying and meditating, you can also do a bit of shopping at Nakamise, filled with shops selling incense, candles, and trinkets. Be sure to taste the treats, particularly the traditional bean paste bun that comes in classic sweet potato and sesame flavors.When in Tokyo, be sure to drop by the Asakusa Shrine. Go visit and feel the vibrance of Edo culture and the fervency of the people's worship and prayers.
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