Meiji Shrine, Tokyo
3 reviews from the community
Review of "Meiji Shrine, Tokyo"
Japan is bursting at the seams with shrines and temples. For the first-time visitor, deciding which one to visit is like trying to choose a chocolate from the box without having the content card to hand.Conveniently, my brother and his wife live in Tokyo, so my husband and I were given a head start in the right direction.
There are two main shrines in Tokyo - Sensōji, a buddhist temple in Asakusa, and Meiju Jingu, a Shinto Shrine in Harajuku. I visited both and prefer Meiju Jingu for its sheer beauty and surroundings.
Harajuku is where the very old meets the very new. On the south-side, teenage Tokyo urbanites line the streets around Takeshinta-Dori in colourful garb. On the north-side, tourists mingle with Japanese in formal dress in Meiji Jingu, one of Japan's finest Shinto shrines.
Alternatively, the Chiyoda Metro line stops in front of Meiju Jingu.
Meiju Jingu is in Yoyogi Park - a short walk from Harajuku Station. The JR Yamanote line stops at Harajuku station, just by Yoyogi-koen. Come out of the station, turn right, walk up to the bridge, cross it and you're into the park.
Formerly the Imperial Gardens, Meiju Jingu is made up of three parts:
Meiju Jingu was built in 1920 to honour the souls of Emperor Meiji (died in 1912) and his consort, Empress Shoken (died in 1914). It officially opened to the public on November 1, 1920.
Naien - the inner area made up of several shrine buildings;
Gaien - the outer area, which includes a visitor centre and memorial picture gallery;
Gyoen - the inner garden.
Meiju Jingu sits in an evergreen forest of over a 100,000 trees made up of 400 different species - all donated by people across Japan when the shrine was being built. This vast forest covers some 170 acres. If you're not one for culture, it's worth coming here just for the walk alone.
When I walked through the entrance to the park, I was struck by its sheer size. The gravel path leading into Meiju Jingu was at least 25 feet wide and lined either side by giant maple and camphor trees. The entrance itself is marked by an enormous Torii (gateway).
There are several Torii gates throughout Meiju Jingu. Made from 500-year old Taiwanese Cypress trees, they are shaped like the Pi symbol and words can't convey the grandeur of them when you're standing beside them.Further up the path way, we passed a large display of what I initially thought to be white lanterns. There were over 150 of them, all brightly painted in greens, reds and black writing. These turned out to be barrels of Sake. As a mark of respect to the Emperor Meiju, ever Sake manufacturer in Japan donated a barrel to honour his memory. I was astonished to also find out these Sake barrels were all full. I'm not known for my cynicism but, you'd need a 24 hour guard on them if they were in a London park.
After a further 10 minute stroll, we came to the official entrance to the Naien, where the shrine buildings are housed. Entrance cost 500 Yen (approx. £2.50) for adults and children can go in free.
THE SCRUBBING BIT
Before you are allowed to enter the Naien area of Meiju Jingu you must rinse your hands and mouth with water. This facility is provided in a "Temizusha" - a stone trough with running water covered by a wooden canopy. This is also known as the Font of Ablutions and the washing of hands and mouth symbolises the rinsing away of sin (oh, if only it was that easy!)
Do not put your hands into the water trough as you will "contaminate the water". Instead, use the wooden ladles provided and if in doubt - watch how the locals do it!
Once scrubbed we made our way into the main courtyard which was surrounded on all sides by shrine buildings. If you wish to part with more money then this is the place to do it - all for the good of your spirituality of course! You can buy wooden plaques (good luck amulets) which have inscriptions on one side. The other side is left blank for you to write your hopes and wishes on. Once you have done this, the plaques are hung on a tree in the courtyard. I read a few of the plaques that had been written in English and French. Hopes ranged from passing exams, being cured of an illness, wanting a long and happy marriage, through to football fans wanted their team to win the premiership. Visitors can also purchase their fortunes. To do this, you pick up a box of sticks and shake it until one falls out. The stick has a specific number written on it which you hand to the cashier. She then hands you the "omikuji" (fortune written on a roll of paper) which corresponds to your number. If the fortune is bad or you just don't like it, you should tie the "omikuji" on to the branch of a tree in the Meiju Jingu. This ensures the bad fortune stays within the shrine and doesn't follow you out.
The main shrine building is beautiful. Built using Cypress tress in an architectural style called "Nagarezukuri". Upon entering it is polite to throw some small coins into the offering box. Upon doing this you should bow once, clap your hands twice and bow once again. As I was doing this I was interrupted by the sound of a loud gong behind me. The gong signified that a wedding procession was commencing through the courtyard.Many traditional marriages take place at the shrine and if you want to see one, it's best to visit at the weekend. We stayed to watch it for a while and then moved on to the inner gardens.
There is a token entrance fee of 300 Yen but for this you get a useful map of the gardens and pathways. Within the Gyeon, there is a small Japanese teahouse, a lotus pond filled with Carp and an iris garden - all connected by winding paths that make you feel like you've stumbled into a secret garden. As a gift to the Empress, Emperor Meiju built the Iris Gardens. This is truly beautiful but I was a month early. They don't come into full bloom until June.
The inner gardens used to be part of the suburbs of Harajuku but during the Meiju period it came under the control of the Imperial household and was renamed the Yoyogi Imperial Gardens. It was often visited by Empress Shoken.
I would have liked to have stayed here all day but our hungry tums were rumbling. As the only place to eat within the Shrine grounds, the restaurant in the visitor centre was pretty busy and a little expensive so we made our way back to the heart of Harajuku for a late lunch.
Opening Hours: 9:30am to 4:30pm
Entrance to Naien - 500 yen
Entrance to Gyeon - 300 yen
Length of visit - 1 to 4 hours
Product Information : Meiji Shrine, Tokyo
Manufacturer's product descriptionAttraction
Listed on Ciao since: 20/08/2005