Monday, April 27, 2015

Around Senso-Ji Temple

Today I finish my segment on Tokyo with a tour of the famous Senso-Ji Temple . . . well. . . sort of.

Before my trip, I had highlighted the paragraph in my Lonely Planet Guidebook about this sacred place.  The writers called it "Asakusa's raison d-etre."  I was thrilled our city tour would stop here.  I so wanted to see the golden statue of Kannon and the two ferocious deities, Fujin and Raijin.  I can't say for certain I saw any of them.  As I followed the tour guide holding up her big red flag, there were so many people at the temple that I couldn't see a damn thing, let alone hear what she was saying.

And so I left.
I found a more quiet, a more enchanting world in the garden and the side streets around the temple.  I decided then and there to leave the tour.

I've been thinking about this ever since my return home.  Earlier that morning, I and many, many fellow tourists had been pushed into an elevator at the Tokyo Tower.  We could barely breathe.  My nose was touching another woman's.  She looked me and said, "Tell me again why we travel?"  I laughed at the time, but I've been thinking a lot about her question.

Travel connects me to the world like nothing else.  I feel more at home in an airport or a hotel or a foreign city street than I do in my own home town.  I feel like I belong.  That I matter.  After all, I made a huge effort to get here.  I almost always feel welcomed.  And soon I will be standing among ancient ruins, beautiful art and architecture, a sacred temple or a cave decorated with petroglyphs,   Soon I will be a witness to the best of man's endeavors.

  I honor these creators by seeking out their existence. The same is true when I stand on the edge of a canyon or at the base of a waterfall.  I am one with Mother Earth.  I am in awe of her wonder.  This is the magic I seek--that feeling that there is no place else I'd rather be.

It is truly addictive.

  As I finish this piece, my thoughts are already on future trips:  A long road trip through the Pacific Northwest this summer.  And a two-week trip to Egypt in the fall.  My travel buddy and I, however, are going independent.  It is quality over quantity.  I may not see everything I highlight, but I will see so much more.  Group tours are no longer an option.  I cannot do justice to the very things I seek when I am surrounded by mobs of people or crammed into a bus.
 I didn't see much at the Senso-Ji Temple, but what I saw will stay with me forever.  Like that baby's first glimpse of a koi.  The ground carpeted with cherry blossoms.  The giant paper lantern swaying in the breeze.

And this, too, is why I travel.


  1. I completely agree with you...I only once went on a group organized trip and I didn't like it. I like to explore on my own and I can't do that in a group...excellent points...wonderful post.

    What matter is that what we see stays with us...sometimes seeing too much in a small amount of time means we're not seeing anything at all.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Ivana. Your last comment is so true!

  2. Yes, I would have left the group as well. I am excited about your future travels. I feel the hope and breeze of the world calling to you. It would be wrong for you not to act on this. I'm glad you had a good time in Japan. It's such a wonderful country and you inspire me to go back.

  3. I have so enjoyed your photos of your trip to Japan . I am not a big fan of guided tours , I like to make my own decisions on what to do and see , not to a formula set out to please the masses. Enjoy your next adventure.