Friday, February 27, 2015

Asakusa and kimono wearing experience in Tokyo



Asakusa is an oldest part of  Tokyo amidst skyscrapers. It lies in the lap of the most modern part of Tokyo and probably that contributes to the charm of Asakusa. Located on the bank of Sumida river this place is still breathing traditional Japanese air.
Asakusa is a district in Tokyo famous for Sensoji Buddhist temple. It is one of the oldest and most famous temples of Tokyo. Its history dates back to 7th century A.D. I believe even now some Geisha houses are there in Asakusa. It was an entertainment district in Tokyo before Shinjuku and other new districts took over this fame from Asakusa in the later years.

Asakusa street
I decided to spend half a day in Asakusa and went by train. When you are in older part of the town, it's an experience to be cladded in their traditional dress. I wanted to experience Kimono. My guide took me to a place in one of the lanes of Asakusa for hiring the dress. There were plenty of options and she asked me to choose my favorite color. I picked up pink. Then for the next 15 minutes  the lady in the shop was busy in wrapping the Kimono and tieing the ribbons. Before wrapping me in   Kimono, she  checked  with me if i want to use  the toilet as it is not easy to go to toilet  after wearing. She wrapped me in the Kimono and tied me with many  pieces of sash one after the other, making me feel difficult to breath. Wondering the number of layers I ask her for the count. She says ‘there are 27 pieces ‘ !!
I loved the way they make butterfly design in the back with a sash which I guess was about 3-4 meters. They call it as Obi

Obi of my Kimono
Do you know ? One can’t wear Kimono without someone’s support and lot of tying  is required.
I was told there are many varieties of Kimono and it will be different for different ceremonies.  It reminded of my  Indian saree heritage, where one wears different varieties of Sarees for different events. Mine was a simple version. But it is a lengthy process having multiple accessories. Kimono doesn't flaunt the figure but it gives elegant look me thinks.

Then there is hairdo. She couldn’t do much with my short hair. But placed a nice clip with matching flowers on one side. Can I go now ? No.. Kimono  is complete only after white socks and traditional footwear. It was  served. Now I am ready to explore  Asakusa in  Kimono.

Ready to explore Asakusa in Kimono

As we enter through the big gate,  Kaminarimon(thunder gate) with a big red lantern, we can see  the sensoji temple. It is hardly 200 mts away from the first gate. How much time do you think it will take to walk across 200 mts ? 
5 minutes maximum ?!
But I bet you can’t reach. Shops around will not allow you to move. I took more than an hour. As we moved through the gate it opened upto  the temple shopping street, Nakamise Dory shopping arcade. 
Nakamise shopping street is always crowded
There are about 200 shops lined up in couple of rows. Time flies away just like that. You can find souvenirs of all kinds here: T shirts , dolls, trinkets, Kimonos, masks and many more things lure the tourists to stop a while before reaching Sensoji temple. It is very colorful and crowded. I was in Asakusa twice in different time of the day. It was always crowded. I did window shopping. Didn’t buy anything. I generally don’t buy any souvenirs from anywhere.

Incense pot in Sensoji temple
After crossing the shopping street there is a gate which takes us to Sensoji temple courtyard. There is an incense pot. People burn incense here. Smoke of that is supposed to be good for good health.

Sensoji temple entrance with big red lantern
Then I enter into the temple. The legend has it that in 7th century few fisherman found the statue of Bodhisattva Kannon and temple was  built in reverence to Bodhisattva. However, another priest after him had a dream and got revelation that the statue should be hidden. Even today the statue is not open for public. What I saw in the altar is two statues and a red curtain. I was told that the Bodhisatva statue is behind the curtain and these two statues are guarding that.

Sensoji temple altar
There is a five storied pagoda next to the temple and similar to any other place in Tokyo  the entire temple complex was crowded.

Sensoji temple and pagoda
I then walked around the less crowded roads of Asakusa for some time before I returned my kimono. It was a nice when the locals were stopping by and complimenting my dress. Though there were many other foreigners mainly Chinese  wearing Kimono, my brown Indian skin  drew their attention i guess. Nevertheless I enjoyed every bit of the kind words grinning ear to ear. 

Useful info - 

- Sensoji temple is open from morning till evening
- Asakusa can be reached by subway Ginza line exit
- It can also be reached by Sumida river cruise
- Public toilet available in the temple complex
- No dress code to enter the temple. Photography is allowed
- I hired the kimono from Sakura.They have good collection . Cloths were clean and  in good condition. They have kimono for men as well.

  Have you been to Asakusa ? Pls share your experience


6 comments:

  1. Very Nice ! I should make it sometime

    ReplyDelete
  2. You look like a Japanese doll!
    Nice read...as always

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello Girija,
    Finally my article about Kimonos it's up here:
    http://tomucho.com/nihon-no-kimono-taiken-kaigai-no-gaikoku-jin-hannou-hyouka/

    Thank You for sharing your Beautiful Images!
    Please let me know if you want to add or change something~

    Cheers,

    jS
    tomucho.com/

    ReplyDelete