The Meiji Jingu Shrine is a major attraction in Tokyo and we explored it on our second day in Japan. We were graced with another warm sunny day. Read about our first full day in Tokyo at our post entitled Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo.
Meiji Jingu Shrine
A 20 minute subway ride from our hotel (the ANA Intercontinental), the park starts at the subway stop exit. The Meiji Jingu Shrine celebrates Emperor Meiji (died in 1912 after ascending to the throne in 1867). Emperor Meiji opened up Japan to the world, promoting adoption of western technology while retaining traditional Japanese culture and identity. This is a Shinto shrine. Shinto is not the same as Buddhism, though they were closely related for many years.
See the trees through the forest
We had a perfect Sunday morning to explore the area which starts with a walk through a mature forest. The actual Meiji Jingu Shrine is at the center of this dense forest.
But we soon learned the grounds were virtually barren in 1920 when the shrine was first opened. Via donated trees and 100 year long planting plan, the area was fully reforested. It’s a beautiful area complete with iris ponds and canopy over the pathways
Babies, wedding and college baseball players
As we toured the shrine area, we witnessed several life events. Japanese tradition calls for babies to be brought to the shrine several times during childhood in what can only be described as a christening of sorts. And we saw several little babies, with proud family gathered around to celebrate.
Next we saw a wedding party cross the main shrine area. The shrine grounds include modern wedding reception facilities and is a great place to hold a wedding. Interestingly some in the wedding party wore traditional Japanese outfits (kimonos) while many others were in more traditional western attire. Married women wore black while those unmarried wore white.
Finally we saw a large group of young men in traditional uniforms lining up. When we asked why they were there, we learned that these were college baseball players. They were preparing to pray to ensure their baseball team would win their next games. These college students were giving up their Sunday mornings to be at the shrine. They take their baseball seriously!
Our contribution to Meiji Jingu shrine
We had two contributions to the Meiji Jingu shrine. First we purchased a small wooden votive in which we wrote something we wanted to come true. There were thousands of these hanging on a building. Periodically these are burned on the grounds so that the ashes would reach the heavens and each prayer would come true.
We also purchased a little amulet which basically says “keep us safe in our travels”. Perhaps in ancient times it would replace travel insurance, but not today (or not for us). They have scores of these including “help me pass my exams.” The Japanese are very practical it seems.
You can learn more about Meiji Jingu here.
The Meiji Jingu shrine is a really neat place. There is a certain peace here, despite the throngs of people. It was refreshing to see a modern shrine built with the idea of being around for many years in the future.
Once we exited the park we walked down the main shopping road in Shibuya. It felt a lot like a mini Ginza – one high end shop after another lined the streets. This area attracts younger Japanese who may feel the Ginza is too upscale or stuffy for them. No matter – the stores were decidedly upscale from my point of view.
We stopped at the Oriental Bazaar, which carried traditional Japanese furniture and furnishings. It caters to westerners because it’s wares are authentic Japanese.
The chicken and the egg
Back near the hotel we stopped for lunch at a small Parent and Child restaurant. Huh? The place served chicken and eggs on top of rice. Get it? the chicken is the parent and the egg is…… OK well it was very good and modestly priced (about $10 per person). We walked around the shopping mall it was located in, checked out a local grocery store and even found a Dean and Deluca’s there along with lots of other high end eateries and specialty food stores.
How much is that doggie in the window?
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped off at a small pet shop. There they had beautiful little puppy dogs and kittens. Prices were in the $3000 per puppy range. I kid you not. It appeared all the dogs would be very small when fully grown – we saw parental weights between 2 kg and 12 kg. Is that why the prices were so high?
Next we happened upon a Sakura festival. In the courtyard adjacent to the hotel in Ark Hills, there was a festival honoring the cherry trees. Disney music blared out the speakers, there were craft making activities for the kids, lots of food vendors and other craft stalls and a line of people going into a large hall (presumably to see a show).
Our day started at Meiji Jingu Shrine. Approaching the Shrine, we followed the prescribed cleansing routine. Rinse the left hand, rinse the right hand. Pour water into the left hand and rinse mouth, then rinse the dipper itself to clean for the next user. The cold water felt refreshing and of course symbolically purifying. The whole ambiance of the Meiji Jingu Shrine felt balanced, peaceful and rooted in Japanese history. Emperor Meiji very much modernized Japan and is revered by his people – both past and present.