Tag Archive for temple

Tourists to Japan now over 24 million annually

In 2015 the number of tourists to Japan was just under 20 million. However, 2016 saw a rise up to 24 million tourists (Japan Today). JT also reports that most visitors came from South Korea and China. Most travellers stuck to the so called “golden route”, and not visit the lesser known destinations in Japan. Japan Today did not define it, but it can only be supposed that the “golden route” must be the main guidebook attractions in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe.

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A young Japanese lady standing in front of Zojo-ji Temple, which Tokyo Tower in the background.

#POTW Ana & Joanie at Sensoji Temple Tokyo

This Photo of the Week (POTW) is of Ana and Joanie at Sensoji Temple, a premier tourist attraction in Tokyo. It was great to work with Ana again, and to work with Joanie for the first time. They were great to work with and helped to make a great collection of images like this selfie. For more images like this, see the Ana, Joanie, Tokyo, and Alamy galleries.

Visiting Sensoji Temple, Tokyo #POTW

This Photo of the Week (POTW) is of Miyu at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo (Wikipedia). This photo was taken on my first day ever in Tokyo. Yes, I have been in Japan for many years, and have never taken a trip to Tokyo ever before. I had just dropped my bag off at the hotel, not being able to check in until 3pm. I met up with my model and we made our way to Sensoji Temple and created a great set of photos.

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Miyu at Sensoji Temple, with Tokyo Skytree Tower in the background.


Sensoji Temple is probably the first religious site in the area that later became a town, city, and then “Tokyo”. It is said that in 628AD two fisherman came across a small gold statue of Buddha in the near by river, which also marked the approximate location that the temple should be. The statue is so sacred that it has long been hidden away from public view (if it still or ever has existed). Consequently, this temple was probably the first and oldest tourist attraction in Tokyo. The site was bombed in World War II, and has been rebuilt partly as a symbol of resurrection of the city. Today, it is the most visited ‘tourist site’ in Tokyo and possibly Japan for overseas tourists. I heard people speaking English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean, (probably) Thai and Vietnamese, and of course Japanese.

Photo galleries: Alamy, Ana, Joanie, Miyu, Tokyo.

Cost: Free.

Where: Closest subway station is Asakusa Station on the Ginza Line of the Tokyo Metro.

When: Any time of year. Best is obviously when the cherry blossoms (sakura) are in bloom, early summer, and Autumn with the changing colour of the leaves. Best to go early in the morning before 10am before the crowds get to thick, and in the evening when it’s beautifully lit.

What to see: Kaminarimon Gate, Sensoji Temple, Nakamise Street (shopping & souvenirs), Tokyo Skytree Tower (a 17min walk away), the kabuki and geisha districts.

A view of Nakamise Street filled with stalls selling souvenirs for tourists, and at the end if Sensoji Temple.


What to do: Enjoy the sights. Take a rickshaw ride and tour of the area. Enjoy a kabuki performance in the area.

What to eat: Surprisingly, there are a lot of restaurants that say they have English and Chinese menus. A lot of restaurants have pictures or wax samples of their food on display out the front. It is possible to find a good hearty meal for under ¥500 (USD$5), but more usually about or under ¥1,000 (USD$10). Also see food.

A ramen restaurant in Asakusa.


Where to stay: There are many hotels in the area, which are reasonably priced. This area is on one of the main subway lines, which gives good access to much of the other interesting places in Tokyo. The Ginza Line of Tokyo Metro gives you straight line access to the famous Ginza district, and Shibuya.

Friends enjoying dining out at street eateries.

Cherry blossoms at Hase Temple

As mentioned in the the previous post, it’s Cherry blossom season. Cherry blossoms are known as ‘sakura’ in Japanese, and ‘hanami’ is to do ‘Cherry blossom viewing’. What I’ve been wanting to do for a long time was to visit a very historical temple and do my own hanami, there. Temples and shrines in Japan typically have lots of cherry blossom trees, which make some of them a tourist-magnet in cherry blossom viewing season.

Cherry blossoms blooming at Hase temple.

Cherry blossoms blooming at Hase temple.

I organised a friend (Paul), a car (Porte), and a sunny day (Tuesday). Unfortunately it took an hour longer to get to Hase town from my place, and so we missed the best of the early morning light. They say, “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out into the midday sun”, which is good because I’m an Englishmen, so I have licence. What remains in the photo collection at Asia Photo Connection are the pick of photos that can work with the midday sun.

A rare view inside of the Main Hall of Hase Temple during a service

A rare view inside of the Main Hall of Hase Temple during a service

New Year

Welcome to 2010. I hope your hangover isn’t too bad.

Last night I had the great honour of being able to go to both a Buddhist temple and a Shinto Shrine to see in the new year. Japanese people do not have a problem with going to both a temple and shrine to pray for happiness and health in the coming year. As I went to meet my friend, the weather really reminded me of England: the cold, the light snow, the wind, and the darkness.

The remains of Tokugawa

Left, Ieyasu Tokugawa's remains; right, his mother's remains.

First, we made a stop at Kougaku-ji Temple. It’s a small temple, just a two minute walk from where I live. I’d seen it before, and the Tokugawa Emblems that adorn it. Previously, I thought it was just a small insignificant place. However, it is the place where the remains (or some of) of the very first Tokugawa Shogunate are kept. Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Ieyasu Tokugawa ended the Japanese Warring States Period and established a military dictatorship which ran from 1600 to 1868 (Wikipedia). In modern Japanese pop culture, this is a very important time. Many television dramas, comics, and books are written about the establishment and end of the Tokugawa Era. Considering the immense impact that the Tokugawa Clan has had on Japan, it is amazing to think that I live just around the corner from a small, unknown temple where Ieyasu Tokugawa’s (some of the) remains are now kept. This is a real local ‘best-kept secret’.

A monk chanting sutras to welcome in the New Year

In Kougaku-ji Temple, where Ieyasu Tokugawa's remains are kept

It was here, at this very small and intimate temple where I saw in the New Year. The Buddhist monks (pictured) chanted sutras from books from about ten minutes to midnight, and ended just after midnight. Afterwards, we were taken outside (in the freezing cold, where snow was still settled on the ground) where we would, in turn, strike the temple bell. The bell was struck 108 times, as it is said that we have 108 sins that need to be cleansed. Fortunately for me, I only had to strike it once, the crowd and the monks would do the rest.

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know what to expect, so the camera that I took was only just enough to capture the events for this blog. I hope to go back to this temple with a tripod and other gear and take my time to photograph it properly, and do it justice.

A Shinto priest in front of a shrine on New Years eve.

A Shinto priest in front of a shrine on New Years eve.

After having the New Year chanted and tolled in, we went to Heaven Shrine, known locally as Hachiman Jinja. Here we had offered to us invitingly hot noodles to eat, and refreshing sake to drink. After refuelling and getting warmed up again by the huge fire (where last year’s prayer / wish boards are burnt) we went up and got new prayer / wish boards. On these, you would write your wishes for the New Year. Unfortunately, the lighting here was absolutely terrible, and so this is the best image I could manage under the conditions. Afterwards I went out for one more small cup of sake (I swear, it was only a small amount that I had), was introduced to some of my friend’s friends. Warmed by the fire a little more, then went home at about 1.30am.

Thanks for the invitation and your help, Mr Kato. Update from Mr Kato, the Buddhist ceremony is for New Year’s Eve, whilst the Shinto ceremony is for New Year’s Day. Arigatougozaimasu, Kato-san.

Some men standing by a fire at a Shinto Shrine at New Year's eve

Some men standing by a fire at a Shinto Shrine at New Year's eve