Fishermen catch a statue of Bodhisattva Kannon（from Kambun Engi Emaki, a historical picture scroll of the Kambun era）
History and Origin of Senso-ji Early in the morning of March 18, 628, when the capital of Japan was Asuka (present-day Nara Prefecture), two fishermen, Hinokuma Hamanari and his brother Takenari, were fishing in the Sumida River. Suddenly sensing something, they pulled up their net to find a statue of Bodhisattva Kannon. When Haji no Nakatomo, village headman of Asakusa, heard about this, he immediately realized that the object was a statue of the important Buddhist deity Bodhisattva Kannon. Taking vows as a Buddhist priest and remaking his home into a temple, he spent the rest of his life in devotion to Bodhisattva Kannon.
In 645, renowned Buddhist priest Shokai Shonin built Kannondo Hall upon visiting the Asakusa district during his travels. Following a revelation he received in a dream, Shokai decided that the image should be hidden from human view, and this tradition has remained in place ever since.
Asakusa began as an obscure fishing village along an estuary of Tokyo Bay, part of the vast wilderness of the area known as Musashi. The district later thrived as people arrived in increasing numbers to worship. When Ennin (794-864), the highest-ranking priest of Enryaku-ji (head temple of the Tendai School of Buddhism) visited Senso-ji in the mid-ninth century, he created a statue identical to the hidden one that could be viewed and worshipped by the people.
During the Kamakura period (1192-1333), the shoguns, who held the true power in Japan during this time, demonstrated great devotion to Senso-ji. Gradually, other historically prominent figures including military commanders and the literati came to follow their example. Enjoying the protection of these illustrious individuals, the temple buildings were refined. During the Edo period (1603-1867), first Edo shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu deemed Senso-ji the temple where prayers for the aspirations of the shogunate would be offered. As a result the buildings were imbued with still greater dignity, and the temple complex flourished as the center of Edo (present-day Tokyo) culture.
Senso-ji is Tokyo's oldest temple. Known affectionately to people all over Japan as the temple of the Asakusa Kannon, it draws some 30 million visitors every year, remaining an important center of worship.
A statue of Bodhisattva Kannon sculpted by Ennin (a treasure of Senso-ji)
Kannon, Bodhisattva of Compassion Amongst the many Buddhas, Bodhisattva Kannon is known as the most compassionate, relieving beings of their suffering and responding to prayers with great benevolence.
This Bodhisattva Kannon, the principle image of Senso-ji, has been an unparalleled source of benefits and miracles, saving and protecting countless people over the course of the 1,400 years since its appearance in the world.
The way of devotion to Bodhisattva Kannon can be described as emulating the compassionate mind of this bodhisattva in our day to day lives, treating everyone we encounter with kindness. ● To pray at the Main Hall, place your hands together in the Buddhist prayer position and chant “Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu” (I place my trust in Bodhisattva Kannon).