Sensoji Temple (Asakusa Kannon Temple)
Tokyo’s oldest temple, completed in A.D. 645, is devoted to Kannon, the Buddhist deity of compassion and mercy. Throughout their history, temple structures were repeatedly destroyed by natural disasters, fires, and most recently in World War II air raids. (The eastern gate, built in 1618, was the only structure to survive.) But the 175-foot-tall, five-tiered pagoda, the Shinto shrine, and other tiled-roof buildings have since been reconstructed. Pay your respects and say a prayer, but do it early in the day, as Sensoji is quickly crowded, especially on weekends. Just through the main gate, the pedestrian-only Nakamise Dori, an avenue packed with close to a hundred souvenir and snack shops, leads to the main temple grounds. Vendors set up shop here to serve temple visitors as early as the 17th century, and it’s a good destination for gifts (kimonos, homemade rice crackers, ornamental lanterns).