A Shrine for an Emperor
Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo is located near Harajuku, Yoyogi park, and the 1946 Olympic complex. The shrine consists of 700,000 square meters of greenery and it the most popular location to be on New Year’s eve and day.
This Shrine was built to commemorate the late Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken is 1920. The shrine was destroyed during World War II and was rebuilt almost immediately. People believe that Emperor Meiji was the first monarch of modern Japan. Born in 1852, he took the throne in 1867 at age 15 while the Meiji Restoration was at it’s peak and Japan was modernizing. Japan developed into a major world power by the time Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912. The government decided that a mausoleum was going to be built in Kyoto, which has been the ancient Imperial seat for more than 1,000 years. Tokyo citizens asked the government to create a Shinto shrine which would not be a grave to commemorate Emperor Meiji. The shrine is built near current day, Yoyogi Park.
Attractions and Sight-seeing
The two torii gates at the entrance at 40 feet high and when passing through them, it symbolically means that one is leaving everyday life an entering a sacred place. The long path to the shrine in lined by large cedar trees.
One of the most beautiful areas within the shrine is the Inner Garden. Around late June in the Shobuda (Iris Garden) there is over 150 species of irises in full bloom. It is rumor that the emperor designed the garden himself as a gift to his wife.
Kiyomasa’s Well (Kiyomasa no Ido 清正井) is the most famous power spot in Tokyo. Guests pay 500 yen to make a wish at the well, but sometimes the wait is up to 40 minutes. A “power spot” is a new catchy phrase that is coming from an old concept. People believe that power spots enhance positive energy. Kiyomasa’s Well used to be a location that was passed on by word-of-mouth only but now it well known and everyone wants to receive positive energy.
The main shrine building (honden 本殿) is the inner most sanctuary of the Meiji Jingu Shrine. The building was built in Nagarezukuri style (流造). The materials used are mainly plain Japanese cypress with copper plates for the roof. The shrine is a popular spots for weddings and there can be about 15 weddings per weekend. The ceremony or ritual is made up of prayer recitation by a priest, drinking nuptial sakura tea, exchanging rings, and wedding vows before the Gods. Kami, means Gods is Japanese and it refers to the Shinto notion of myriad divine spirits.
Photo Credit:hirotomo t@flickr
Omikuji are paper fortunes that are found at Buddhist and Shinto temples and shrines across Japan. A small donation is expected to receive a fortune. Some fortunes are good and some are bad. The bad fortunes are to be tied to a post at the shrine. Good fortunes are to be taken home. The fortunes describe how one’s love, health, work, relationships etc will be effected.
Planning for the Forest
In 1915, the committee for building the shrine worked with experts in forestry and landscaping to create the shrine forest project. Many of the trees used in the project were collected through donations from around the world. The sites planned for the space were farms, grasslands, and marshes. While planning, the team considered factors such as which tree species should be the dominant plant in the forest to cover a vast area and to create a setting for a majestic shrine. At the time, the objective of using the trees was to keep the dust away and protect the shrine from the smoke pollution caused by steam locomotives of the Yamanote Line, which was starting operations. The government wanted cedar and cypress trees as the main species.
The planners created certain conditions, the dominant trees should be able to adapt to the climate and soil, be resistant to smoke pollution, and grow naturally without maintenance. The dominant trees needed to look natural and appropriate for the divine shrine. There are 80 types of trees and shrubs within the forest. Plants such as bushes, fruit bearing trees. and other species that require maintenance are not counted into the dominant species. Donations started in 1916 and over 95,000 trees of 365 species were donated. The planners sectioned the area into five zones and envisioned four 50 year stages in which the landscape was going to grow, change, and develop.
[map lat=”35.676397″ lng=”139.699327″][/map]
Meiji Jingu Shrine
Address: 1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo
2 minute walk from Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line Meiji Jingu Mae Station
2 minute walk from JR Yamanote Line Harajuku Station
Hours: 5:00 AM – 6:00 PM
*Times vary based on month
Website: Meiji Jingu Shrine