While we were all social distancing, Tokyo’s most famous temple got a facelift.

Sensoji in Tokyo’s Asakusa is one of the city’s most revered and historic temples, attracting thousands of local and international tourists annually. With a long history dating back to 645 AD, the temple marks a number of important occasions with traditional ceremonies throughout the year, and in 2020, one of those special events was the arrival of a new lantern.

The giant red lantern at Sensoji, which hangs from the centre of the Kaminarimon gate at the entrance, is almost as famous as the temple itself. According to a temple spokesperson, this was only the sixth time for the lantern to be replaced since the rebuilding of the gate in 1960 — the previous gate was destroyed in a fire in 1865 — with the last replacement occurring seven years ago.

▼ The lantern in mid-February, before it was taken down.

Weighing in at approximately 700 kilograms (1,500 pounds) and measuring 3.3 metres (10.8 feet) in width and 3.9 metres in height, replacing the lantern is a task as big as the item itself. It was taken down on 10 March, with the gate being left bare until the arrival of the replacement over a month later.

▼ The Kaminarimon looked very different without its iconic central feature.

At 6:30 a.m. on 17 April, five craftsmen from Shinmon, the local construction company that looks after the temple gates, arrived to install the new lantern. After two hours, the bright red lantern had been lifted into place and was hanging grandly from the Kaminarimon.

▼ This video shows the lantern being installed in the early morning.

With Tokyoites abiding by requests to follow social distancing guidelines and stay home, the grand lifting of the new lantern was held without crowds, as was the temple memorial service that was held in front of the Kaminarimon shortly after, at 10 a.m.

Details on the new lantern include the date it was installed — April, in the second year of Reiwa (2020) — and the company who made it, Takahashi Chochin, a longstanding chochin (lantern) specialist in Kyoto.

The hanging of the new lantern lifted the hearts of a number of locals, who said it brought them joy at a time when Japan and its people are currently fighting to control the spread of coronavirus.

Reijiro Sugibayashi, the managing director of Shinmon, said he hopes the new lantern brings energy and vitality to the area, the temple visitors, and those working in the Nakamise shopping arcade that lies behind it, who are doing it especially tough right now with the dramatic drop in tourists.

Source: Tokyo Shimbun
Photos ©SoraNews24

● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!