Asakusa 浅草 and Obon

While I was in Tokyo one of the things I wanted to see was the lantern festival taking place near Asakusa for Obon. First we got there early enough to explore Asakusa, or what we thought was early enough. We started off at Kaminarimon gate (thunder gate) and went down the Nakamise  shopping  street to the temple, Sensō-ji(浅草寺). The street was lined with shops and it was really cool to look around and see what they were selling. There were also plenty of food vendors and lots of cool shops. I tried a sticky plum water candy that was both sweet and salty, but very very sticky. It was horrifying for a couple minutes because I had taken too big of a bite and my teeth were stuck together.

After we passed through the the Hōzōmon gate (Treasure House Gate gate) we headed towards Sensō-ji.  Sensō-ji is a Buddhist temple that was built in 628 for the goddess of mercy, Kannon and is Tokyo’s oldest temple. We wafted lucky smoke on our heads and washed our hands before going up to look around the temple.

It was interesting to watch and see what other people were doing. Some of the other temple guests were wafting the smoke towards things other than themselves that they wanted luck for. I watched one man take his wife’s wallet and focus all the smoke on it while an older man and his friends wafted it toward his groin. If the wind changed people would struggle to move closer to where the smoke was going.

There was a long line up to the temple for people going to pray. Since we weren’t praying we just went up and looked around. We’d taken too long and as we were trying to leave we kept ending up in the way of people at the temple getting ready for the festival.

After we made it out of Sensō-ji we went to the river to watch the lanterns. By the time we got there, even an hour before it was suppose to start, it was packed. We found a little space along a tall wall to watch the festival on tiptoe and my friend got help from another foreigner to be lifted up onto the wall so she could film. I stayed on the ground. It was very underwhelming. The lanterns were set in the water one at a time and then floated off down the Sumidagawa river, occasionally one caught fire. The wind was blowing them in a way that on either side of the river you couldn’t have a good view. It looked like an actual festival was going on on the other side, but after almost two hours of standing on tip-toe watching one lantern on occasion go by I was ready to go home. Luckily my friend was too, we got help to get my friend down and then made our way back to Shibuya. (After getting a little lost trying to find our specific train station again since we’d put all of our stuff in a coin locker near that station)

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