The city's most colourful and popular temple has been a Buddhist shrine for centuries.
If you need a break from relentless modernity of the city, the Buddhist temple of Sensoji, in the old downtown quarter of Asakusa, is the place to head to. Instantly recognisable by the huge akachochin red lantern that marks its entrance, the temple has stood on the same spot for over a thousand years.
Legend has it that in 628, two brothers fished out a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy from the river, and, despite their attempts to return it to the river, it was always returned to them. A temple in Kannon's name was then built in 645 and while parts of the temple have been damaged and rebuilt over the years, the temple has remained a constant in the lives of Tokyo's Buddhists.
Approach the temple via Nakamise, a shopping street that is in itself several centuries old. Sellers here specialise in beautifully presented Japanese snacks - try the sembei rice crackers - and souvenirs, such as fans and cotton yukata clothing.
When you reach the large bronze cauldron in front of the temple, it is traditional to rub the smoke from the incense sticks against your body to ensure good health. After that, head through the two large gates, the first of which is called Thunder Gate or Kaminarimon, and you will arrive in the main hall. While most of the structures are relatively modern, the Asakusa Shrine was built in 1649. In Komagatado Hall, the Bodhisattva Bato-kannon (a statue of Kannon) is shown to the public on the 19th of every month and during a major festival on 19th April.
It is free to visit the temple. The grounds are always open while the main hall is open daily from 6.30 a.m. – 5 p.m. The complex is just a few metres away from Asakusa station.