This perfect example of Shinto architecture - muted colors and spare lines - was opened in 1920 to commemorate the death of ... More
Meiji Jingu Shrine
This perfect example of Shinto architecture - muted colors and spare lines - was opened in 1920 to commemorate the death of Emperor Meiji in 1912. Surrounded by 72 hectares (178 acres) of shady trees and the various Japanese flora of Meiji Jingu Park, it is one of Japan's most sacred and picturesque shrines. The Imperial Treasury House annex exhibits the coronation carriage and mementos of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.
I've heard that once you've seen one temple or shrine in Japan, you've seen them all. Meiji Jingu is definitely not one of those. The huge modern and slightly ominous looking gate is a fitting start to the shine that has been called the shame of Japan. It enshrines some 14 war criminals, and the tradition of politicians visiting it adds to the controversy. There is a nice ginko and stone lantern lined walkway between the two gates. The inner shrine grounds have a very nice atmosphere with lanterns, trees (I... don't remember what the trees were, sorry) and comparatively modern looking shrine buildings. A path around the back of the shrine is a nice stroll, and there is a koi pond. Its a very nice shrine of its own rights, and has important contemporary significance. Definitely go here if and when you get tired of seeing cookie-cutter temples and shrines.
I have visited this shrine twice now, and had two very different experiences. The first visit was on a weekday morning in the Spring. There were few people around as we walked through the extensive grounds and viewed the shrine itself. We purchased an Ema (votive tablet) for 500 yen (about $5), and wrote a prayer on it, and hung it outside the shrine. I also purchased omamori, a talisman of sorts. It was a special set with a small pink and small blue pouch. It was for a strong marriage. Many weddings take place at Meiji Shrine, which leads me to my second visit...
The second visit was a clear, cool Saturday in November. There were many more people, Japanese and tourists, walking around the grounds and shrine. We walked in behind a couple with their 2-3 year old daughter dressed in kimono with her hair done very fancy. They brought her to the shrine for photographs, and perhaps for another reason, as we saw several other children once we reached the Shrine dressed in formal dress. Some carried a special bag, others had a ribbon and pendant on. The neatest thing we saw though was a wedding procession. The officiants and those that assisted them led the procession. The bride followed, simply stunning in full kimono and makeup. She was flanked by what I assume were her parents, and they were followed by a gentleman (from the shrine?) who shaded them with a large parasol. Behind them were the guests. It seemed acceptable to photograph this, and I got some lovely photographs. It was a real treat to see this tradition first hand.
If there is a title for the most serene spot in Tokyo, this could be it. It's the opposite of the capitalistic fervor surrounding Sensoji (Asakusa). The huge mon (gate) leads you into the cool, calm grounds with large trees surrounding you. There's not a whole lot to see beyond the simple shinto architecture but there's a good chance you'll catch a wedding procession in progress if you come on an auspicious day. I probably wouldn't make a special trip here but since it's near Harajuku and Omotesando which you'll want to see anyway, you may as well stop when you're ready for a respite.
I came here once for hatsumode around 1am on January 1st when it's a totally different story and thousands of people crowd in to pay their first respects. Quite an experience.
It may be one of the most sacred shrines, but not as intimate or as interesting as many others. Imposing torii. However, there are some interesting sights within walking distance at Harajuku and Yoyogi Koen.
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