Not Quiet Temples and Shrines
Temples, Shrines, Shops
Some Japanese temples are beautifully quiet places with peaceful gardens. Before I came to Japan I mistakenly imagined all temples and shrines would be like that. I was thinking of ponds with koi carp and turtles, perfectly maintained leaf-free stone gardens, and areas sculpted with moss and plants.
And then I discovered these marvellous loud places. There are shrines and temples that you reach through crowded streets filled with shops selling local specialties, tea, sweets, hats, shoes, rice crackers, umbrellas, socks, and swords and masks - and often there will be a cafe, restaurant, drug store, or post office sitting between all the other shops. And that is on a normal day. During festivals and other events additional food stalls crowd temple grounds everywhere.
The Nakamise Streets in Asakusa and Enoshima
Asakusa's temple Senso-ji has such a crowded street leading up to it, the Nakamise street. This is a place full of energy and tasty snacks and souvenirs like Ningyo-yaki, Kaminari-okoshi, and Agemanju.
Enoshima - one of my favourite places for a day trip - also has a crowded and busy shopping street like this. And it is also called Nakamise, Benzaiten Nakamise to be precise. Shops here sell souvenirs, steamed manju cakes, fresh senbei rice crackers, thin octopus crackers, and local specialties made from dried seafood and seaweed.
Senso-ji's Nakamise starts at the temple's Kaminari-mon gate next to the Asakusa train station.
To reach Enoshima's Benzaiten Nakamise walk over the bridge to Enoshima island and you are there. You have to pass through it to reach Enoshima Shrine with goddess Benzaiten.