There are many Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines in Tokyo and I was looking forward to visiting some of them including the Meiji Jingu Shrine. I wasn’t clear on this initially, but Buddhism and Shinto are separate “religions” (not really a “religion” like how people practice Christianity, Islam, etc.) in Japan but they are combined so people can practice both of them. Shinto is not an organized religion, it is just a collection of all traditional Japanese beliefs. Often a Buddhist temple is right next door to a Shinto Shrine.
On my first full day to explore in Tokyo, I realized that I could walk from my hotel in Shibuya to the grounds of the Meiji Jingu Shrine in about 20 minutes. I entered the grounds at the southeast corner and through one of the large Torii (gates).
After passing through the gate and walking down the path I came across rows of stacked Sake barrels which were gifts to the Shrine from the Meiji Jingu Sake Brewers Association over the years. They are very colourful and are a popular photo spot.
The Shrine is dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, and was constructed in 1920. It was destroyed in WWII air raids, and rebuilt in 1958, but still has an authentic feel. The Shrine grounds cover about 175 acres, much of it planted with trees, located in the centre of Tokyo.
Before you entre the Shrine you will see the Temizusha (font) where you do the ritual of cleansing the hands and mouth. There is a procedure to follow here which involves pouring water into your hands to clean, then rinsing your mouth with water from your hand, and then cleaning the dipper. You never put the dipper directly to your mouth! At this large shrine there is even a sign in English to explain what to do which is nice.
After this you can proceed to the Main Shrine building so that you can make your Offering if you wish. To make the customary offering, toss a coin (a 5 Yen coin is considered the luckiest) into the box, bow twice, clap your hands twice, say a prayer if you like and then bow again. Apparently clapping is said to attract the gods’ attention!
It is a large Shrine, so I spent well over an hour wandering around and so was lucky enough to see 3 Wedding processions while I was there.
Each bride looked quite different but all very beautiful.
It was a surreal experience really as their family members are taking photos, but also a crowd of tourists are snapping away with their cameras (like me), but I have to say, it must all be part of the experience for them because they seemed to enjoy the extra attention!
After the formal procession into the Shrine, later they can be seen posing in areas around the Shrine for their formal photographs. This is how I got the next photo, I was standing just behind their official photographer, making sure not to get in his way but enjoying the opportunity to photograph the wedding party – I felt quite privileged to share in their experience.
I found an area off to the side where you could write out a prayer or your wishes on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope with some money as your token offering and put it into a box. Your wish or prayer will be placed before the Shrine’s alter at the next ritual ceremony.
You can also purchase a prayer tablet which you can write your prayer or wish on and then hang it on one of the hooks around the Divine tree. Again, these are offered at the next morning ceremony.
While I was there, some areas of the Shrine were covered as they were being maintained and worked on, but they had done it in a manner that didn’t take away from the serenity of the Shrine and blended in really well.
I really enjoyed my time in the Shrine, taking in the special atmosphere, so leaving my prayers behind I decided to move on and visit the Meiji Jingu Inner Garden which is actually older than the Shrine it’s self. The Inner Garden dates back to the early Edo Period (1603-1867) when this area was the garden of Lord Kato of Kumamoto, it later became the property of the Imperial Family and Emperor Meiji expressed great pleasure at this tranquil garden. I have no problem understanding why, because especially in this modern time it is a lovely escape from the bustle of urban Tokyo life.
The teahouse at the Inner garden was a favorite resting place of Empress Shoken during her visits to the garden, the original was burnt down during WWII, but like the Shrine, it was rebuilt in 1958.
I walked down to the Iris garden, visiting in April it was too early for any Iris to be flowering, but 1,500 groups of 150 original Edo-type varieties are planted here which reach full bloom in June making this look like a river of Iris blooms.
From there I walked back up through the Azalea garden, which were just coming into bloom but wasn’t at it’s peak yet. It was a lovely winding trail through the garden with a bamboo fence on either side.
I finished my tour of the very pleasant Meiji Jingu Inner garden by taking a look at the pond which has been known as a sacred spring water pool from the days of Edo, and is home to Carp and other fish. Even though it was early in the season and there wasn’t as much colour as there would be later in the year, I think it was still worth the small entry fee to take a look at the inner gardens and experience the serenity.
Date of visit; 17th April 2017.