One of Tokyo’s most historic areas is even more spectacular without the crowds.

Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s most famous areas, attracting attention from tourists around the world who come to visit Sensoji, the oldest temple in the capital.

For our reporter Seiji Nakazawa, however, Asakusa is simply home. He lives within walking distance of the temple so to him Sensoji is simply a part of the landscape that he doesn’t even bat an eye at anymore. In fact, whenever he happens to pass beneath the massive lantern at the front gate and through the grounds of the temple, he finds himself simply feeling inconvenienced by the hordes of visitors rather than awed by the traditional architecture.

The other night, though, Seiji arrived back in the neighbourhood much later than usual, and that’s when the temple caught his eye.

The area looked very different to how it usually appears, with the main gate devoid of visitors and darker than usual. The temple at the end of the Nakamise shopping street beyond the gate was vaguely visible beyond the pitch-black entrance, creating an eerie, mysterious scene.

▼ Standing here at midnight, Seiji felt as if he was standing at a gate to another world.

Drawn to the lights of the street, the area had a magnetic pull that Seiji was unable to resist. The shutters to the stores were now closed, giving the place a dystopian look that made him feel as if he was one of the last people on the planet.

With no tourists to slow his progress along the path, it now seemed to stretch on forever, much like the black sky above the dim electric lights.

When he did finally reach the Hozomon gate at the end of the shopping street, it too had a completely different feel compared to what he’d seen during the day.

With the statues on either side of the gate standing in darkness, Seiji felt like he was about to embark on a mission from Gantz.

The main hall also had an awesome, parallel-world feel. The huge lantern had a stronger presence than usual, becoming the main focus of attention under the bright spotlight.

This was a side of Sensoji Seiji had never experienced before, and after pausing to immerse himself in the eerie, otherworldly feel of his surroundings, he began his slow walk back to the front gate, turning to glance over his shoulder along the way.

Temples and shrines are usually off-limits to visitors late at night, so this rare opportunity to step into a mystical world left a lasting impression on Seiji.

The main building is brightly illuminated until 11 p.m. every night, so if you’d like to see the famous structure in near-darkness like Seiji did, you’ll want to visit after that, which means a stay in one of the many hotels in the area may be in order.

So next time you’re planning to visit Sensoji, you might want to think about visiting it twice — once during the day, when the traditional stores and rickshaws are operating, and once at night, when the place takes on a mystical charm, especially when paper lanterns float down the nearby Sumida River during the annual Tourou Nagashi ceremony.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]