This is a sound recording in Nakamise Dori Shopping Street in Asakusa. This Shopping street starts from the famous Kaminarimon Gate and end right before the Sensoji Asakusa temple court. On the left and right side of the street were stalls of many kinds of merchants like souvenirs, food, gifts, to clothes. I brought my handy recorder and walked through the 250 meter shopping street to record all the hustle and bustle there in the afternoon on 2nd April 2019.
It was believed, the shopping street had been there since late 17th and early 18th century when local people around the Sensoji Asakusa temple were allowed to sell and build trade shanties in front of the temple. In exchange the merchants/traders were required to maintain the sanitation of the temple area. What’s intriguing was, at the time the Sensoji temple was already famous among Buddhist pilgrims. Nakamise became a place to relieve hunger and thirst for the pilgrims.
It was very interesting reading the history of this place. Because now, when the world of global tourism had advanced at a fast rate, and Japan had become one of the most attractive tourist destinations, it couldn’t be denied that the Sensoji Asakusa temple and Nakamise Shopping Street had become favorites as tourist destinations in Tokyo. Of course there were still many people that came to the temple to pray but the number of tourists crowding the Sensoji temple area simply couldn’t be ignored. Almost everyday this temple would be bustling with tourists and calm down after nine pm when the shops in Nakamise Dori also closed (the shops were usually closed at 20.00).
If we compare it with historical journals, you will see a great shift in the dynamics of popular temples in Japan. The shift came in the form of (once again I emphasize): that temples are no longer used solely for worshippers to pray or pilgrim, but also as favorite tourist destinations. Not only the Sensoji Asakusa temple in Tokyo, but also Fushimi Inari temple in Kyoto and Todaiji temple in Nara experienced the same phenomenon. The condition was even worse at Fushimi Inari temple. Because many of those tourists like to sound the temple’s bell which was suppose to be used for praying as if it was some toy. The rope of the bell which was hanging was pulled and swung all over the place and created very noisy sounds.
Back to the recording, the sounds were the crowd of visitors going through Nakamise Shopping Street. The sound of footsteps, chit-chats, announcements, and many more. Perhaps, tourism was also a form of ‘pilgrimage’ in today’s world. While listening back to the recording and writing it down, I also reflected that I too was a tourist, who was in the middle of pilgrim recording sounds.