When Swastikas Mean Something GooD: The Asakusa Temple in Tokyo

By Abi King | Japan

Jun 18

Swastikas in Tokyo

Swastikas at Sensoji

I love this photo. I love the smoke, I love the skin creases and the sequins, the small clues that show us that two different people are here.

And I love the swastikas in the centre.

I took this photo at Sensoji Temple in the heart of the city of Tokyo. The Asakusa region throngs with crowds, with street food stalls and arcade games. The hustle and bustle makes King’s Cross Station feel sedate.

People ring bells, they burn incense, they clap hands and they bow their heads for prayer. They scoop water from the mouths of frozen dragons and trade fortunes and trinkets at the booths that squeeze into the shadows.

And everywhere everyone goes, the swastika follows.
Asakusa shrine sale

What Swastikas Mean in Japan

Here in Japan, the swastika isn’t a symbol of menace and isn’t a byword for politics. It’s a religious symbol said to be derived from the Sanskrit that means “to be good.”

I know that. I know I know that. I know I knew that the last time I was here.

Yet I’m still surprised by the silent gulp that those spider legs induce. I’m still a little shocked that they make my heart beat faster.

And I think that’s why I love this photo so much.

It shows so little: two hands and the hint of a swastika. Yet it reminds me of so, so much.

That without the right perspective, it’s so easy to misjudge others.

Couple at Asakusa

Asukasa dragons and water

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