Senso-ji (Asakusa Temple) does not celebrate Christmas

I don't celebrate Christmas, but I decided to do something for the day. The plan was simple. Meet up with my friend Sen-san (she's from China, her surname's Sen, and somehow 'Sen-san' is more catchy than her actual Chinese name, so that's what I always call her), have sushi at Ueno, and then go to cool places with Christmas decorations where I can snap some photos, and she can test her Nikon D70.


So we had sushi at Ueno in the evening, and when the sun was gone, we headed for Ueno Park, because after visiting the place a few weeks ago and taking dozens of awesome photographs, I just knew that decorations SHOULD be spectacular at one of the biggest parks in Tokyo.

After all, the obvious choices were Roppongi or Ginza for the beautiful Christmas decorations, most people were going there. Being who I am, of course I wanted to go against the grain and uncover some unexpected treasures at Ueno Park.

I was wrong. Only the solitary tree near the entrance of Ueno Park was decorated. Although it did look nice, it wasn't what I expected. I was expecting lines of light covering each and every single tree in Ueno Park. No such luck.

Christmas decoration outside Ueno Park


I decided to be even more creative. I suggested to Sen-san that we should visit the famed Senso-ji, or known as the Asakusa Temple, because even though it's unlikely that there would be CHRISTMAS decorations in a BUDDHIST TEMPLE, I assumed that being a festive period, the place would be crowded and filled with life.

This temple left the deepest impression for me during my numerous visits to Tokyo as a child. I remembered mostly the shops of Nakamise-dori, the street that leads to the temple. My mom used to buy souvenirs here, and I once bought a Dragon Ball Z game for the Famicon when I was 9. It would be a wonderful trip down memory lane.

The shops would all be open until late at night with hundreds and hundreds of people shopping, buying stuff and just having fun. That was the atmosphere I craved.

So we took a quick subway ride to Asakusa and hurried to the Senso-ji, past the famed Kaminari-mon.

Kaminari-mon, in Christmas


It was only 7pm. But all the shops of Nakamise-dori were closed.

The stalls of Senso-ji were still closed early on Christmas


We continued walking past the shops and to the Hozomon gate, famous for the huge lantern hanging in the middle.

Hozomon Gate, in Christmas


It was so quiet.

Senso-ji, in Christmas


Sen-san then tried to take photos of the Nisonbutsu. A pair of seated Buddhist statues dedicated to Senso−ji Temple. They are two of the most magnificent Buddha statues created during the Edo Period.

Sen-san tries to take photos of the Nisonbutsu


On the left is a Mahasthamaprapta (Seishi Bosatsu) statue, guardian of Buddha wisdom.

Mahasthamaprapta statue


On the right is a Kannon (Guan Yin) statue, the goddess of mercy.

Kannon statue


The temple was nearly empty. My gaze wandered to the pagoda of Senso-ji, and the surrounding bare trees, and then to the starless black sky. The winter wind blew, it was suddenly a little chilly. Sen-san put on her scarf and her hat, making a remark about our fruitless photo-taking expedition.

I frowned.

Another quiet Christmas has passed.

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