Also popularly known as Asakusa Kannon, this is Tokyo’s oldest and most celebrated temple. Its history dates back to a.d. 628, when, according to popular lore, two brothers fishing in the nearby Sumida River netted the catch of their lives: a tiny golden statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy and happiness, who is empowered with the ability to release humans from all suffering. Sensoji Temple was erected in her honor, and although the statue is housed here, it’s never shown to the public. Still, through the centuries, worshipers have flocked here seeking favors of Kannon; and when Sensoji Temple burned down during a 1945 bombing raid, it was rebuilt with donations from the Japanese people. After sunset, the temple and pagoda are illuminated until 11pm.
Entrance to the temple is via colorful Kaminarimon Gate onto lively Nakamise Dori, a pedestrian lane leading to the shrine and lined with more than 80 stalls selling souvenirs and traditional Japanese goods. In fact, the whole Asakusa area is one of my favorite neighborhoods, and you can easily spend half a day here. If you’re here on a Saturday or Sunday, free 1-hour tours of Sensoji and the neighborhood are led by volunteers at 10:30am and 1:15pm; the meeting place is at the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center, across the street from Kaminarimon Gate.