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The Heart of Tokyo & Buddha

- Hye Sung

Tokyo is commonly seen as a city by Americans, but it is actually a prefecture, like a province in Canada or a state in America. And well, Tokyo is absolutely breathtaking. As a kid, I visited Taito City in Tokyo to visit some of my mother’s friends from high school. Taito City is crowded with Japanese hipsters, teens fashioning the Lolita-look, pachinkos, little ramen shops, businessmen, advertisements, and… uh… Buddha.


Buddhism has been in Japan since the 2nd Century BC, and is very much apart of the Japanese culture, as well as the Shinto religion. Though many Japanese do not consider themselves Buddhist or even religious, many continue to practice Buddhist and Shinto traditions and ceremonies. My mother is Japanese and was raised a somewhat believer in Buddhism, so while on our trip to Taito City, we decided to walk to the closest temple, which just happened to be Sensō-ji.

Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺,) is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Within the temple is a garden for meditation and contemplation where many faithful Buddhists come in times of spiritual thirst. A grand hall within the temple is dedicated to a Buddhist goddess named Kannon, referred to as Guan Yin in Western Buddhism. Kannon is oftenly compared to Mother Mary of Catholicism, for both are seen as merciful and Mother-like and venerated and vital to both faiths.

When deeper into the temple, you reach the Omikuji. For a small “suggested donation”, you reach into a wall of papers. You pick one piece of paper, similar to the paper within a fortune cookie (and my mom told me that the fortune cookie is derived from the Kyoko cookie which was derived from the Omikuji). It tells you a general fortune (great blessing, small blessing, medium blessing, blessing, half-blessing, etc., as well as different levels of curses) and then tells you what the blessing or curse is regarding (travel, relationships, illness, childbirth, etc.).

If you’re not really into the whole Buddha thing, hey, it’s cool, cause Sensō-ji has plenty of gift shops, where toys, souvenirs and food is sold. Plus, it is adjacent to a shinto shrine, which is the most famous Shinto shrine in Japan due to it’s history and architecture.
So spirituality is pretty hip these days, and from the looks of the counter at Urban Outfitters displaying Buddha figures, Buddhism is in as well. So if you’re into that kind of thing, I’d make a stop to Sensō-ji in the heart of Tokyo, and get friendly with enlightenment.

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