ASAKUSA KANNON SENSOJI

Photo:SENSOJI

Senso-ji is the oldest temple in Tokyo.
Known throughout Japan, it is the temple of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Sho Kanzeon Bosatsu),
who embodies the mercy of all Buddhas.
This important center of religious faith draws 30 million worshippers every year.

History of Senso-ji

Early in the morning on March 18, 628, when the capital of Japan was in Asuka, in what is now a part of Nara Prefecture, Hinokuma Hamanari and his brother Takenari were fishing in the Sumida River. Bringing in their net, they were surprised to see that it held one statue . When Haji no Nakatomo, village headman of what is now Asakusa, realized what they had was a statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Sho Kanzeon Bosatsu),Kannon called usually.he devoted himself to Buddhism. He remade his house into a temple soon and devoted the rest of his life to worship and holding memorial services for this Kannon.

In 645, a Buddhist priest named Shokai came to this region and built a hall for the Kannon. Following a revelation he received in a dream, Shokai decided to hide the statue from view. Since that time, it has remained never unveiled.

Asakusa at the time was a small fishing village located in an estuary of Tokyo Bay in the vast wilderness of the area known as Musashino. It grew and flourished as people arrived in increasing numbers to worship. When Ennin (794-864), head priest of Enryaku-ji (the main temple of the Tendai School of Buddhism) visited Senso-ji in the mid-ninth century, he created a statue identical to the main image (absolutely Hibutsu) so that it could be shown rarely to the public.

During the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), the Shoguns demonstrated great devotion to Senso-ji. Gradually, other prominent figures, including military leaders and literati, followed their example, and the temple’s importance increased. In 1590 Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa Shogun, designated Senso-ji as the temple where prayers of the shogunate would be offered. After that the successive Tokugawa Shoguns had often visited Senso-ji and the belief in Kannnon of the Senso-ji had spread among common people during the Edo Period(1603-1867).
As from the end of the 18th century through the 19th century Edo city developed into the largest population city in the world , the culture specific to Edo flowered and Asakusa had become the cultural center in Edo.
In the modern times Asakusa has been the popular culture center such as theater,movie,music and vaudeville.

Senso-ji is the oldest temple in Tokyo and also called Asakusa Kannon because it houses the Kannon, It is known throughout Japan. This important center of worship draws 30 million visitors every year.

Fishermen find a statue of Bodhisattva Kannon in their net. (Source: Senso-ji Kambun Engi Emaki, historical picture scroll of the Kambun Period)

Kannon, Bodhisattva of Mercy

Sacred Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Sho Kanzeon Bosatsu), Principal Image of Senso-ji

Kannon
Yanagi-no-Miei (A Treasure of Senso-ji)
Bodhisattva Kannon statue sculpted by Ennin (Jikaku Daishi)

The temple’s principal image is the Sacred Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, who is known for being the most compassionate, and for relieving suffering and answering prayers with great benevolence. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, commonly called Kannon, can change forms. Bodhisattva Kannon appears in countless forms such as Juichimen (11 faces), Senju (1000 hands), and Nyoirin (wish-granting jewel and Dharma wheel), all of which are based on Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva with one face and two hands.

In the Main Hall (Kannon-do), there are two masterpieces of calligraphy by Noguchi Sekko, one of the Three Best Calligraphers of the Edo Period (around 1800). They were hung on each side of a large offertory box. The words are quoted from Hanjusan, written by Shan-tao (Zendo Daishi), an influential writer of the Pure Land School of Buddhism during the Tang Dynasty in China. They express the compassionate mind of this Bodhisattva Kannon, who treats everyone equally and with great benevolence.

Since renowned Buddhist priest Shokai decided to hide the Kannon statue from view in 645, it has been stored in a gorgeons zushi(miniature temple) with multiple locks which have prevented even the chief priests of Senso-ji from viewing it.

*To pray at the main hall, place your hands together in the Buddhist prayer position and chant “Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu, or “I place my trust in Bodhisattva Kannon.”

Visit

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Yearly Events at Senso-ji

  • Hatsumode

    Hatsumode(First Temple Visite of the Year)

    Date:Junuary1-7

    To pray for safety, good health and good harvest throughout the coming year.

  • Setsbun

    Setsubun (Spring Celebration)

    Date:it is around February 3rd

    To celebrate the coming of spring, we throw dried beans to drive out evil and bring in good luck. Since there are no demons near Kannon, at Senso-ji we do not say the traditional, “Demons out!” Instead, we say, “Long Life! Welcome good fortune!”

  • Honzon Jigen-e

    Honzon Jigen-e(Celebration of the Appearance of the Bodhisattva Kannon)

    Date:March18

    To celebrate the appearance of the Bodhisattva Kannon, the principal image of Senso-ji, on March 18, 628.

  • Hana Matsuri

    Hana Matsuri(Celebration of Buddha’s Birthday)

    Date:April8

    To celebrate Buddha’s birthday. In Japan, we sprinkle hydrangea tea on the statue of Buddha.

  • Shiman-rokusen-nichi

    Shiman-rokusen-nichi(Day Worth 46,000 Visits)

    Date:Jury9-10

    These two days when prayers offered at Senso-ji are 46,000 times as powerful as prayers offered on other days. This period is also known as Hoozuki Market, in which potted Hoozuki (lantern plant) are sold at the many stalls in and around the temple precincts.

  • Osame-no-Kannon Goennichi

    Osame-no-Kannon Goennichi(Last Festival of the Year)

    Date:December17-19

    The last Senso-ji festival of the year, held from the 17th to 19th of December. The Hagoita (battledores) Market is held near halls and gates of Senso-ji during this event.

Overview

Route Map

Location
2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan
Sect
Sho Kannon Sect (Main Temple)
Name of the Temple
Kinryuzan Senso-ji
Principal Image (Not open for viewing)
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Sho Kanzeon Bosatsu)
Disclosed Statue
A statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Sho Kanzeon Bosatsu) sculpted by Ennin
Date of Appearance
March 18, 628
Founded by
Priest Shokai (Date of birth and death unknown)
Restored by
Ennin (Jikaku Daishi) (794-864)