So I woke up and began walking towards Kaminarimon or “Thunder Gate.” I knew exactly where it was because I had gotten lost trying to find my hostel the night before and, in my wanderings, had been drawn to it! Well, it’s kind of hard to miss, being a giant paper lantern in the middle of urban Tokyo…
Beyond the gate is Nakamise-dori. The many shops selling souvenirs and traditional items, combined with the school children waiting to ambush foreign tourists to practice their English, make it quite a tourist trap. The stalls are actually quite nice–I bought a postcard with a traditional print of Asakusa to send home to my family. But I have gotten quite fed up with the young students who are brought to touristy spots just so they can practice their English. I don’t mind getting stopped once by a group of friendly, curious students, but after the first time, the others mark you as an approachable target and the next thing you know, you’ve answered the exact same questions in slow, easy to understand English at least five times. “Where are you from?” “Where do you want to visit in Japan?” “What is your favorite Japanese food?” I just want to visit the temple!!
Finally, after fighting my way through the throngs and dodging yet another school group, I make it to Hōzōmon or the “Treasure House Gate.”
I’m no particularly devout follower of any religion, but I seem to constantly find myself exploring temples and shrines! Is it their beautiful architecture? Their rich history? Their cultural importance? Probably all of the above. But I think any foreigner traveling to a new country and trying to understand the culture would be a complete idiot to not visit the places of religious and spiritual value. After all, these are actually active places of worship, and you will see people coming to pray just as you will find tourists and school trips.
Bonus, ramen for lunch: