Meiji-Jingu Shrine, Tokyo
The large park where the shrine to the Meiji Emperor is located behind the JR Harajuku station. A short walk through the crowds (most of them are joing shopping in nearby Omotesando Dori) found us in a wide gravel path, lined with massive trees. We passed under two massive cedar Tori gates and within minutes, the bustle of the city was replaced by the tranquility of the forest in Yoyogi Park. By the path we saw barrels of sake and wine, sadly lacking taps so they could be sampled. Lanterns and sconces in which fires could burn lined the ceremonial way, but were presently unlit.
At the Shrine, where the spirits of Emperor Meiji, and his Empress Shoken are venerated, visitors participate in traditional Shinto practices, washing at the well, making offerings at the main hall, buying charms, fortunes (Omikuji) and amulets, and writing wishes on wooden plates which are hung in the hope they will come true.
Meiji and Shoken ruled as Japan progressed from a feudal state to a modern nation. The shrine is a popular place to visit, especially at New Year, when millions make the journey.
The Shinto shrine Meiji Jingu is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. It was originally built between 1915 and 1921 but was destroyed in the Tokyo air raids of World War Two, so what we see today is the 1950s reconstruction.
Emperor Meiji was born in 1852 and ascended to the throne in 1867 as the first emperor of modern Japan. His accession brought an end to the feudal shogun era and ushered in a period known as the Meiji Restoration, during which Japan modernised and westernised herself to join the world's major powers. This shrine celebrates that achievement so is a significant place in the country’s history and sense of itself.
The shrine is located in Yoyogi Park and is surrounded by an evergreen forest that consists of 120,000 trees of 365 different species, by people from all over the country. We strolled through these trees along wide paths, following the crowds of both Japanese visitors and tourists. The first thing we saw was a large number of sake barrels displayed by the side of the path. These are offered every year by sake brewers from around the country to show their respect for the souls of the Emperor and Empress in recognition of the encouragement given to the growth of this and other industries under the Meiji Restoration.
Near here is the first of several torii or shrine gates. This one is the biggest of its style (known as Myojin) in the country – 12 metres high with a 17 metre cross piece spanning its 1.2 metre wide pillars. It was made from 1,500 year old Japanese cypress or hinoki in 1970 and is an exact replica of the 1920 original.
Passing beneath this the path continues to the main shrine which you enter beneath another torii. Just before this on the left is the temizuya or font where the faithful purify themselves before entering the shrine. Once inside you find yourself in a large courtyard surrounded by several buildings and with the shrine itself in front of you. People mill about, and as always at a Shinto shrine you will see a lot of amulets for sale and prayer plaques, known as ema, on which people write prayers and wishes before leaving them hanging for the spirits to read. Around two sides of this courtyard we saw hundreds of dolls and soft toys lined up in rows, with more being added even as we looked. I wasn’t sure whether these are given in gratitude for prayers answered or as offerings to ensure a positive response to entreaties.
Perhaps because it was a Sunday, we were lucky enough to see several weddings in progress while we were here, and no one seemed to mind us watching and taking photos. The bride in the photo I have included here (photo five) had an especially beautifully embroidered white kimono and a striking headdress, but all were lovely.
After some time wandering around and taking in the sights (and taking lots of photos, although this is naturally forbidden in the inner sanctuary of the shrine) I was weary and wanted to rest. We sat on the steps near the entrance but were asked to get up – this is sacred ground and it seems sitting on it is not allowed. So we headed back to the visitor centre area beyond the outer torii. Here there is a self service cafe selling light meals and drinks, a restaurant, shop and also a treasure house where you can see personal belongings of the Emperor and Empress, including the carriage which the emperor rode to the formal declaration of the Meiji Constitution in 1889.
The shrine is open all day every day and is free to visit. The treasure house exhibition costs 500¥ and is open 9.00-16.30, but we didn’t go in here as time was getting on. So after a cold drink we decided to head back to our hotel to rest up for a while before having dinner.
The Meiji Shrine was built to commemorate the life of Emperor Meiji, who led the Meiji Restoration, in which the emperor's power was restored and the Japanese nation was modernized. The shrine was originally constructed from 1915 to 1921 in a 175 acre forest. The original shrine was destroyed in World War II, and the present structures were built completed in 1958.
The walk from the subway stations on along a long, 50-foot wide gravel path. When you approach any of the inner sanctuary's three gates, you will pass an area with a spring where guests wash their hands before prayer. Once inside the inner walls, you will see the main shrine, and just off to the right side, a huge tree ringed with thousands of small wooden, hand-written prayer cards. In front of the shrine itself, people chuck coins into a box, then clap twice, then briefly pray.
On a recent Sunday I went to the Meiji Shrine, which is the most touristy thing I've done in Tokyo . Even though this is a traditional area of prayer for Japanese, Westerners flock here, and I'm really not sure why. It was just a modern version of a Buddhist Temple. If it wasn't for the spiritual aspects, it would be rather boring. The best part was that they let people write prayers on small panels of wood that they hang outside of the shrine. Most are Japanese, but some are in English, French, and a number of other languages. My favorite was one written in bad English that said something like, “I hope I have good grades, good health, and good lover. I hope my lover have good grades, too.”
The Meiji Shrine was built in 1920 to honor the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken who died in 1912 and 1914 respectively. The shrine that stands today was built in 1958 after the original was destroyed in WWII. Although it feels like a primeval forest, all of the trees and plants surrounding the shrine and in the garden were donated by people from throughout the nation, so you can find native plants from most (if not all) of the prefectures in Japan.
The walk to the shrine is very peaceful and when I visited there were very few other people, so it definitely felt like being taken out of the city and into a secluded space; good one's spiritual senses.
The shrine has a large garden as well as two treasure houses. Visiting the shrine itself is free but each of the museum's costs 500 yen to enter and the garden is also 500 yen.
This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I love the Meiji Shrine. From the impressive wooden arch at the entrance to the peacefulness of the shrine itself, this is the place to go to really experience Japan at its best and most traditional.
From the moment you get there it is a lesson in Japan. The trees that line the area (which were donated by Japanese citizens and others from all over the world) to the wooden bridge and the rituals of purifying yourself before entering the temple, it is something that must be experienced.
You could easily spend a day here going through the shrine, the gardens and the museum. If you are lucky you will get to see a martial arts demonstration at Shiseikan, the traditional home for Japanese Martial Arts, or see a Shinto Monk romaing the grounds.
On the day of our visit, Meiji-Jingu was bustling with numerous weddings (one at the processional stage, others posing for photographs). Mishu told me that the obviously heavy wedding headdresses worn by the brides were designed to hide their horns; apparently the belief is that all women have fox spirits, and during the wedding ceremony could reveal this side of their nature unless it were suppressed by the heavy headgear. We had encountered many people on the walk up to the shrine who were clearly heading for weddings, to judge from their dress and demeanor; the men all wear white ties, and the women's hairstyles and footwear indicated that they were preparing for nuptials. We also noticed the "shrine maidens" who have much in common with vestal virgins; they are young girls in service to the shrine. Some of them, who couldn't have been much older than twelve, were accompanying the bridal processions, wearing bright orange hakama (the wide-legged trousers typically worn by tradesmen).
There were also parents preparing to dedicate their infants. The mothers wear traditional kimono and tabe and the babies are also dressed formally, but the fathers we saw were in business suits.
From the liquor storage point, it wasn't far to the main shrine. The tradition is to cleanse one's hands and mouth by ceremonially pouring water with a ritual dipper. Then you step to the threshold of the shrine, facing the honden or main building, and bow. The Meiji Shrine is immense, with a huge forecourt.
After you've made your way up the long winding path, eventually you arrive (after another immense torii) at the ranks of Burgundy wine and sake which are dedicated to use at the shrine. The Meiji emperor was apparently the first to introduce red wine drinking in Japan, and many of the vineyards in Bourgogne continue to send tributes.
The entrance to the Meiji Shrine is really impressive. It is located in an immense park. You enter via a huge torii, and then stroll through a lovely, long walk which winds gradually up towards the shrine itself.
A visit to the Shrine is interesting, more so, if you are there on a Japanese lucky day [Taian]
It is believed, a marriage consumated on this lucky day, is insured of success, happiness and prosperity.
We saw three weddings and a christening.
At the Shrine, the Shinto priest first holds the purification service of all present. We noticed that it was attended by a small amount of people [members of both families and close relatives & perhaps some elderly friends]
The "San-San-Kudo" or ceremony of the Three-Times-Three Exchange of nuptial cups is performed by the bridegroom and bride, and these days, often an exchange of wedding rings.
The bridegroom and bride proceed to the sanctuary to offer twigs of "Sakaki" sacred tree in worship to gods to end the main part of the wedding ceremony.
"Sake" is drank to signify their union through the wedding, traditional music is played, and the wedding is attended by "Miko" maidens.
We found it to be very solemn, there weren't smiles on the faces of any of the wedding party, so different to our Western style weddings.
Meiji Jingu Shrine is actually a huge greenery place and is a refreshing place. Particularly, Inner Garden of this shrine, using the former samurai lord garden, is a great stroll garden and is a good place to see the wildbirds.
The Meiji Shrine is probably the best example of a Shinto Shrine in Tokyo. Like most things in Tokyo, it had to be reconstructed after the World War II bombings, but it still retains that old Japan feel. That's probably because everything, including the huge torii gate, is constructed out of cypress in a city where almost everything else is concrete or metal.
...The shrine was constructed in 1920 to honor the Emperor Meiji, under whom power was centralized for the first time in centuries. Before Emperor Meiji, the emperor reigned in Kyoto while the real power was held by warlords or Samaurai in Kamakura or Edo (present day Tokyo). After the shock of Commadore Perry's Black Ships, the isolated Japanese ruling class decided they had to do something dramatic to avoid the fate of China so power was restored to the Emperor (the Meiji Restoration) and centralized in Tokyo. Then an amazing westernization and modernization effort to become Asia's pre-eminient power. The construction of this shrine was likely both an effort to commemorate and perpetuate that political revolution.
...The shrine is still important to the spiritual life of Tokyo's people, even if he Emperor no longer has divine power. People still come here to pray, marry, pass their 7th birthday, etc.
Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine located in Yoyogi Park. Shinto is Japan's ancient original religion and it reflects in Japanese life. Shinto has no founder, no holy book and no concept of religious conversion, but Shinto values harmony with nature and virtues such as a sincere heart "Magokoro". This shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken. After Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912 and Empress Shoken in 1914, Japanese people donated 100000 trees from all over Japan and overseas and they worked voluntarily to create this forest which surrounds the shrine. Thanks to sincere heart of Japanese, the shrine was established on 1 November 1920.
At Meiji Jingu Shrine you can purchase the wooden votive plaque call Ema and write wishes and prayers. The written plaques hung on rack wooden board under the wishing tree. The wishes and prayers are written in many languages and you can actually read some of the wishes people written.
I am not sure the exact cost, I think it cost around 500 yen for adult and 200 yen for children. I didn’t get to make a wish.
The Torii (gates) are usually made from wood. The large Torii gate at Meiji Shrine are built from 1,700 year-old cypress trees and imported from Taiwan.
The Torii gates are very important to Japanese people who are practising Shinto’s. The significant of the Torii gates to the Shinto’s followers is that they must pass under the torii gate. Passing under the gate is to purify the worshippers' hearts and minds before praying to the Kami (Shinto’s gods or spirits). Shinto’s are Japan's major religion alongside Buddhism. The meaning of Shinto is the way of the gods. The Torii gate at Meji Jingu Shrine is decorated with plaque and belongs to Ryobu Shinto which has Buddhism influenced. As for pure Shinto the Torii gates are plain.