January 16th, 2007


It having been maybe 24 years or so since I last visited, I got away to Asakusa last weekend with Sachi. The main draw of the area is the large temple, Senso-ji (a.k.a. “Asakusa-dera”). The street to get there begins with the landmark Kaminari-mon, or “Thunder Gate,” with the distinctive large red lantern, pictured above. Once inside, you get to brave the long gauntlet of pricey tourist-trap stalls and shops lining the avenue, separated by masses of tourists.


This is about as touristy as it gets in Japan, the kind of shops where kitsch dominates. Shops filled with “Ichi-ban” T-shirts, “Kamikaze” hachimaki headbands, Hi-no-maru folding fans, to bawdy novelty items–like the “Oppai Purin” (“Titty Pudding”) pictured below (miniature brassiere optional–I’m not kidding). The Osaka variety at left was sold out (god knows why that one went first). And no, I didn’t get any.


To round off the tourist kitsch, there were dango & manju (dumplings & buns) salesmen dressed up as old-style samurai, and nice rickshaw rides available. Though Japanese don’t call them “rickshaw,” they say “kurumaya” or “jinrikusha.” And to those of you who have never been to Japan, rickshaw are only located in the tourist areas, and not even very often then–though I will admit to having spotted several underpasses with “no rickshaw” signs at their entrances–probably very old signs indeed. Though they may have been simply more generic “no hand-drawn cart” signs instead.



Nearby is the Asahi Beer Building, designed to have a giant flame atop the monolithic base. However, many Japanese see it differently, and call it the “Unko” building–literally, the “Turd Building,” after what they recognized to be a giant, stylized, golden piece of fecal matter (if you’re familiar with Japanese manga, they are kind of drawn like that).


Once you get past all the tacky shops, you get to the Senso Temple proper. At the front there is a rather famous incense pot, where everyone stops and waves the smoke over their heads and at their bodies, as a kind of good-luck thing.



There is also a pagoda there, quite a nice one. This shot below is actually a composite. I took two shots at different exposures; one that was exposed well for the pagoda had the sky too washed out, and the other was good for the sky but the pagoda was too dark. Experimenting in Photoshop, I superimposed the good sky on the good pagoda and got quite a nice effect, I think. Click on the image for a larger version.


One more shot before I go: the pagoda with the washed-out sky. A very nice view regardless.


Categories: Focus on Japan Miscellaneous Tags: by
  1. January 17th, 2007 at 14:51 | #1

    I really like the combined pagoda shot, as well as the one above it with the man combing his scalp.

    As you probably know:
    “jinrikisha” = person + power + vehicle

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