Asakusa Temple

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There is hardly any visitor to Tokyo who does not get to see the Asakusa Kannon Temple, or catches a glimpse of the theater and shopping district surrounding it.

The huge red lantern hanging at the red lacquered portals is impressive and unforgettable.  This is the main thundering gate, the Kaminarimon, for the gods of wind and thunder stand guard at its side (Fujin and Raijin). The row of stalls which line both sides of the walk seems to have encroached since Hiroshige’s days, making it narrower for the constant stream of people that flows.  By the time they reach the entrance to the temple, they are ready for the smoke ceremony of purification, supplication and healing from the giant incense burner, ever kept supplied by earnest believers.

SONY DSC Faith in this temple is attested by its long history.  The eastern gate, Nitem-mon, is commemorated to the three fishermen, Sanja, who are supposed to have been the founders of the institution in the 7th century.  When they cast their nets one day, a tiny two inch image of the God of Mercy was found.  This story is not strange, since most of the ancient temples which originated in this era have a similar story to tell.  It is quite possible that when the anti-Buddhist faction of the house of Mononobe got the upper hand, they threw these images into the waters which invariably surrounded the temples.  When the Soga returned to power they were probably fished out again.

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Ryogoku Fireworks

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A whoosh, an eerie screech, a puff and the fireworks display starts with a bang the kawa biraki, the river opening ceremony.

Predominant in the Ryogoku area were the amusements, temples and shrines so dear to the hearts of the common people.  The summer festival of “Hanabi” attracted hundreds of thousands.  It was an annual free show sponsored by the riverside restaurants and boat-keepers.

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Originally, there were two main makers of fireworks, their contests of skill making the fete more interesting. These were the Kagi-ya and the Tama-ya.  After each burst, the grateful crowds shouted both names enthusiastically.  Their order of firing followed by a printed program on sale gave the names of the maker, the donator and the explosives specified name.

Unfortunately, Tama-ya one day, in a local celebration, accidentally set fire to one of the Shogun’s mansions.  For this his shop was suspended.  Irrespective, the faithful yearly spectators kept on repeating the names of Kagi-ya and Tama-ya.

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Congestion of traffic has today banished the Ryogoku display to the Tama River, where it is held in the latter part of July.