Asakusa

A trip to the Asakusa neighborhood was an opportunity to see both a contemporary work and a traditional style temple.

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This is the Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center by Kengo Kuma, completed in 2012.  Kuma describes the building as a pile of roofs which “wrap different activities underneath” and define the role of each floor.  For instance, the third box from the top is a terraced theater, which is visible from the outside.

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Two-story entrance atrium

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Looking up from the entrance

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The building is directly across from the entrance to Senso-ji, one of the most famous temples in Tokyo.

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Interior wall texture

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Wood / i-beam connection

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The top floor has an open-air viewing platform.

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The view of Senso-ji is incredible! From here, you can see the two entrance gates with the shopping street in between, and in the very back the huge roof of the temple itself.  Normally you’d be able to see the pagoda as well, but it was being restored inside that tall grey box just to the left of the temple.

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A neat exhibition space inside was showing some student architecture projects!

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The diagram of the building is used for wayfinding!

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A sneak peek from my trip to the Archidepot Museum: Kuma’s model of the building

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Directly outside is the entrance to Senso-ji.

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This first gate is called the kaminari-mon, which are the two characters written on the lantern there. It means “thunder gate.”  The statues on either side are different than the usual ones in these gates.  On the left is Raijin, the god of thunder, surrounded by his thunderous drums, and on the left behind the pillar is Fujin, the god of wind, holding a sack of wind.

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The most impressive thing about Senso-ji is the scale of the buildings.  This lantern is hanging above head height, and it’s probably eight or ten feet tall.

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Here is the shopping street leading up to the temple. Both foreign and Japanese travelers visit this temple, so the retail caters to many different tastes.  They range from kitschy tourist trinkets, to Japanese sweets, to traditional crafts. Since it was the beginning of cherry blossom season, there are decorations hanging next to the lights.

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This is the second gate, which leads to the main temple grounds.

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And here is the temple itself.  This roof is so stunning to see upon coming through the gate.  It’s just enormous, and its deep angle creates a shadowy depth where the altar is located.

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Perhaps both this and the Kengo Kuma building indicate the important role the roof can play in defining the character of a space.

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The bottom of the lantern.

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The inside of the temple – my camera makes it look brighter than it actually was.  The altar is to the right (photos were not allowed of this part, however).

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Looking back out to the temple grounds.  The smoke is rising from a large basin where incense is lit.

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Just outside, food stalls sell things like giant sticks of meat

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or fresh okonomiyaki

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or these cold fruit candies, beautifully displayed on a block of ice

 

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