A revisit to Meiji Jingu shrine

The climate has been turning good in Tokyo with the approach of golden week. The sky is clear or cloudy but not raining, which is suitable for going out with kids. Last Saturday when we decided to go out with kids we had no clear plan where to go. It was then the name of Meiji jingu which is located in Shibuya, Tokyo, came to our mind. One of the reasons to remember Meiji Jingu was the recent visit of Mr. Guido Westerwelle, German foreign minister to this shrine. During lunch break one of my German friends recollected the news appeared in the local newspapers about the visit of German foreign minister to Meiji Jingu. Last year Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State had also made her visit to Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine.
It is easier to get to the Meiji Jingu shrine from Higashi Ojima station. The Toei Shinjuku train goes directly upto Shinjuku or Shinjuku sanchome and then to Meiji-Jingumae with in 49 minutes including the transfer time. The transfer at Shinjuku sanchome to Fukutoshin line is a bit lengthy process. Another way is to transfer to Yamanote line from Shinjuku. To plan the convenient train travel route, I use the Tokyo Transfer Guide, an online train route finding facility provided by Tokyo Metro. By using the transfer guide, we can determine where to transfer using the Toei Subway, Tokyo Metro and other railway lines in and around Tokyo like Tokyo metropolis, Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures. This is one of the convenient services which Balasan forwarded to me during my initial days in Japan. This is a useful guide for foreigners since the website information are in English.

We reached at Meiji Jingumae station at around 3 PM. As usual and expected the Harajuku area and Meiji jingumae area were crowded. My kids could enjoy the animation characters walking on the streets. This part of Tokyo is totally different! Harajuku is the meeting point for the young generation living in a romantic imaginary and fashion world making fun and love that many times crosses all barriers of genders.

The first time I visited this shrine was with my brother. The pamphlets written in English and Japanese have a brief history of the Shrine. Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. After their death people wished to pay their respects to the Emperor and Empress and they selected an iris garden in an area of Tokyo where Emperor and Empress used to visit was selected for the location of the shrine.

The artificial forest  is with trees brought from different parts of Japan and looks as if it is a natural forest. There are brooks flowing through the artificial forest. The construction of the shrine was started in 1915 in the Nagarezukuri style using Japanese cypress and copper. The air raids during Second World War had totally destroyed the shrine. The shrine was rebuilt on 1958 after the war.

The first time I visited this shrine was with my brother. The pamphlets written in English and Japanese have a brief history of the Shrine. Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. After their death people wished to pay their respects to the Emperor and Empress and they selected an iris garden in an area of Tokyo where Emperor and Empress used to visit, to build the shrine.
On the way to the shrine we could see huge barrels stocked in racks on the sides of the road. These are barrels of sake (sake means alcohol in Japanese language) known as nihonshu donated to the Meiji Jingu shrine.

Meiji Jingu Shrine is located in a forest that covers an area of about 175 acres. Meiji Jingu Shinto shrine area is covered by an evergreen forest with around 120,000 trees of 365 different species. These trees were donated by people from all parts of Japan when the shrine was established. The shrine has two major areas known as Naien and Gaien. The Naien is the inside grounds centered on the shrine buildings. There is a treasure museum that has articles of the Emperor and Empress.

The Gaien is the outer grounds with Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery and many sports facilities. There is a Meiji Memorial Hall, used for official meetings in the past which is now used for Shinto religion weddings. In almost one hour we did spend at the Gaien, we could see rituals of two weddings. Priests and maidens were in traditional Japanese dress. Tourist people were taking photos of bride and groom who were clad in traditional Japanese dresses.

We can write down and sign the prayers and put them in envelops along with offerings. Recovery from ill-health, protection from evil spirits, family protection, Children’s health, General well-being, Business prosperity etc can be requested through the prayers. It is believed that the prayers we make at the shrine will come true.

The trip was memorable and informative as it could help recollecting one of the important historical eras of Japan – Meiji Period. Emperor Meiji was open-minded to other cultures. A few lines from one of his poems says ‘By gaining the good and rejecting what is wrong, it is our desire that we’ll compare favourably with other lands abroad.’ These lines are displayed near to the Sake barrels.

The shrine closes at around 6 in the evening. Harajuku and surrounding areas were still boisterous with colorful and cheerful youngsters chirping around showing no interest to return to their nest. The shrine and the garden surrounding it stood behind us as a symbol of Emperor Meiji’s wisdom when we looked back.

Author: Jayaprakash

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