In Tokyo, in search of the meaning of life in the Sensō-ji temple Where you travel

Text taken from the section Reboot by Andrea Bariselli on DOVE June 2024

I have arrived at Asakusa district at dawn, just before the invasion of tourists. It is one of the few places to Tokyo which still retains a glimmer of the mysticism of the Edo period. The long street leading to the heart of the sacred complex is a succession of still-closed trap shops, which contrast with the placid atmosphere of the morning, as much as the very tall skyscrapers of the modern city which form the backdrop.

At the end of the path stands majestically the Sensō-ji Temple, Buddhist masterpiece. Legend has it that in 628 AD, fishermen found a statue of the goddess Kannon in the Sumida River: the temple was built to guard it. Throughout its long history, the main hall has been destroyed countless times and rebuilt with donations from people all over Japan. Inside the main hall is a statue of the goddess, which visitors can pay homage to before touring the rest of the area.

At the heart of the temple, pivot of Japanese spirituality

The smell of incense grows stronger as we get closer, as does a strange background noise that I have difficulty deciphering. It's rhythmic, sometimes metallic. They look like stones rolling around in a tin container or something. Without realizing it, I find myself in the square in front of the temple and a very strong emotion overcomes me: there are very few people, almost all absorbed in prayer, holding incense. Some sit in front of a sort of very long wooden chest of drawers, under a finely decorated pergola. I decide to follow them.

They are all Japanese and I don't understand what they are doing. The most obvious is that they are here, search for spirituality, contact with the divine. And now that I think about it, maybe I'm here for the same reason too. I then approach this strange stand and I hear that the noise is coming from there: inside a hexagonal metal container, there are several wooden sticks. You grab it and shake it while praying or focusing on a desire. Then from a hole comes out a wand bearing a
number. Once you find the corresponding drawer, you open it and take out a piece of paper.

I discovered that their name is “omikuji» and are strips of paper on which oracles are written. They offer predictions that can range from great luck to great misfortune. Predictions can concern various aspects of life such as health, professional success or personal relationships. If the prediction is negative, the band may be linked
of paper on supports left specifically outside the temple: he will take care of it himself, thus preventing misfortune from following you. However, if it is positive, you can take the omikuji with you, like an amulet.

Destiny in an omikuji, oracle of the future

A certain tension comes over me when I have to look for mine, but I feel that the temple is somehow there with me. I then look closely at my symbol and begin searching. There are hundreds of them. I bring the stick closer to the drawers to make sure that this is indeed my destiny. There I open it: my piece of paper has a series of indecipherable writings on it, but on the back in English it says “regular fortune” and a series of other things. Not bad, come on, I think, it could have been a lot worse. As I do all of this, I feel a subtle sense of timeless beauty flowing through me. search for meaning.

Humanity has always needed to find logic beyond everyday banalities and perhaps traveling is today the best way to reconnect with this dimension. A little melancholic, I leave the neighborhood and let myself be swallowed up by the Tokyo traffic for my appointments. The magic of this moment already seems very far away. But then something happens. In the afternoon, I take a break at a cafe and meet a few guys. Her name is Azuki and she speaks excellent English, so I tell her about my experience at the temple. When I show her the photo on my phone of my wooden stick with the number and then the Omikuji, she looks at me surprised and tells me there is a mistake.

There is no match: I pulled out number 32, but the Omikuji is number 33. A shiver runs down my spine. The drawer was okay, but whoever put it in there probably made a mistake. I then ask him if it wasn't my destiny and if I should go back to fix it. She looks at me and says with a smile: “if the universe and chance made you find this message, it is because this is your destiny”. I still have goosebumps.

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There is no chance or coincidence, we walk every day towards places and people who have always been waiting for us.“. Giuditta Dembech – Come together and remember

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