Meiji Shrine – Shibuya

If the bustle, noise, and dazzling neon of Tokyo is starting to wear you down a visit to Meiji-Jingu is just what the doctor ordered.

Boasting more than 100,000 trees of 365 different species, from all over Japan, this 700,000 square metre (or 175 acre) forest is the ultimate tranquil oasis in a city that, largely, never sleeps.

meiji jingu shrine harajuku yoyogi Tokyo Japan park garden escape oasis Japan JaPlanning travel

Meiji Entrance

Meiji jingu shrine Harajuku Yoyogi Shibuya Tokyo oasis tranquil Japan JaPlanning travel

Gardens

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine was completed in the early 1920’s and dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji (also known as ‘Meiji the Great‘) and his consort wife Empress Shoken.

The ‘Torii Gate’ entrance is located just behind the Harajuku train station and is an imposing and grand introduction to an equally grand shrine.

Meiji Shrine Torii gate Shibuya Harajuku yoyogi jingu Japan travelling JaPlanning

Torii Gate

Meiji Shrine is divided into two main areas that are both ten minutes from the Harajuku and Yoyogi entrances. These areas are:

  • Naien – the inner precinct that centers on the shrine buildings and includes the Azekurazukuri style Treasure Museum.
  • Gaien – the outer precinct that includes the Meiji memorial picture gallery, sports facilities, memorial hall and gardens.

The northern end of the shrine features the Meiji-jingu Treasure House where you can see many of Emperor Meiji’s personal items. At the southern end there is the Iris garden that is popular in summer when in full blossom, and is the reason for the location of Meiji-jingu, as the Emperor and Empress visited the garden regularly during their reign.

When you visit the Meiji Shrine you can take part in typical Shinto activities, such as, making offerings at the hall, buying charms/amulets or writing a wish on an ema. You might also see a Shinto wedding.

So – why all the fuss about Emperor Meiji? Why does his shrine seem to be the biggest, most lavish, and most popular? Basically it’s because, during his reign, the direction of Japanese culture, politics, class, and economics changed drastically and rapidly.

I think its fair to say that the Japan we all know and love today might not exist without Emperor Meiji’s rule.

Emperor Meiji

Emperor Meiji meiji era enlightenment tokugawa shogunate Japan Tokyo Edo Kyoto JaPlanning

1.
Badass.

Emperor Meiji, born Sachinomiya or ‘Prince Sachi’, known under his personal name as ‘Mutsuhito,’ was the first Emperor of Modern Japan.

Emperor Meiji was born in 1852 and at the time of his birth, Japan was an isolated, pre-industrial and feudal country that was dominated by the Tokugawa Shogunate and presided over by the Daimyo (local lords) who ruled the country in over 250 decentralised domains.

Meiji ascended to the throne suddenly as a very young man (at 15 years of age) in 1867 after the suspicious death of his father Emperor Komei. The (then) Emperor was in his early thirties and good health when he suddenly contracted small pox and died. It was suspected that he was assassinated by means of an infected handkerchief due to his increasing alignment with the Shogun and anti-Western sentiments.

Very shortly after Emperor Meiji’s ascension to the throne, and due to a variety of economic and cultural factors, Imperial rule was restored to Japan with all Bafuku (Shogunate) resistance being stamped out by 1869.

In 1869 Emperor Meiji married Ichijo Haruko, who became known thereafter as Empress Shoken. Empress Shoken was by all accounts, something of an intellectual and creative prodigy, but was unable to bear any children for Emperor Meiji. However Meiji produced 15 heirs to five ‘ladies-in-waiting’ (aka: concubines) of which only five survived.

Then in 1871 Meiji announced the abolition of the 250 domains of Japan and reorganised the country into 72 prefectures that still exist today. Nearly all of the local Daimyos retired due to the requirement that they relocate to Tokyo. During this period of change, class-based discrimination was abolished from law and the Samurai suffered as many of their privileges were revoked.

In 1889 Tokyo officially became the new capital of Japan and the Royal family was relocated to this new centre.

Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912 and, at the time of his death, Japan had undergone political, social, and industrial revolution, emerging as one of the great powers of the world stage.

Our last day in Japan

Our final day in Japan was spent enjoying Meiji Shrine. I’m glad that we left Meiji-jingu till last – we had a long flight ahead of us and a whole holiday behind us and the stillness and sanctuary of the shrine was welcome.

It was also an unbelievably cold day. When I look at the pictures from the shrine I swear I can still feel the chill on my cheeks and nose!

We made our way to Harajuku station and found ourselves at the Torii Gate after only a very short walk. The gate and forest were both exceptionally impressive in size. As with all large forests, I swear that the air felt cleaner and lighter in my lungs, and the light of the sun was broken up by the canopy into a shower of twinkling rays. Magical.

One of the first things we came across as we walked towards the Naien precinct was, unexpectedly, a collection of wine barrels that were a gift from France!

Meiji shrine jingu wine barrels france Japan Tokyo JaPlanning travel

Party at Meiji shrine?

Meiji shrine jingu commemoration france wine barrels Japan Tokyo JaPlanning travel

Commemoration

This was probably one of the last things I ever expected to find in a shrine! The barrels were gifts to Emperor Meiji from the wineries of Bourgogne that were later consecrated and displayed.

We continued to the Naien precinct and when we arrived we were lucky to witness a Shinto wedding in progress:

Meiji Shrine Naien entrance Harajuku Yoyogi Shibuya Tokyo Japan JaPlanning travel Shinto

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[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]
Entrance to Naien Precinct

Meiji Shrine Shinto wedding Harajuku Shibuya Japan JaPlanning travel

3.
[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]

Meiji Shrine Shinto Wedding bride Harajuku Shibuya Japan JaPlanning travel

4.
[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]

Meiji Shrine Shinto wedding Harajuku Shibuya Japan Tokyo JaPlanning travel

5.
[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]

Shinto Wedding Meiji Shrine Harajuku Shibuya Japan Tokyo travel JaPlanning

6.
[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]

It may seem strange to take so many photos of the wedding but there were a lot of other people – Japanese and gaijin – doing the same. It seemed like a pretty normal thing and the guests were completely unphased by the pictures being taken. One lady (bottom picture) actually smiled for Monique!

The procession was very solemn and serious and there was one little boy who was determined to go against the flow, regardless of parental justice!

Meiji Shrine Shinto wedding cheeky boy Japan Tokyo Shibuya travel JaPlanning

7.
[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]

I’ll admit that taking this picture was a bit weird and Monique even said that his Dad ‘gave me a weird look’ but I’m glad we got the shot now – even looking at his cheeky face and remembering the seriousness of the procession makes me smile.

If you’re looking to escape the neon and noise of Tokyo for a few hours, there couldn’t be a more perfect place to recharge than Meiji Shrine. It’s amazing to me that just next door is the hustle and bustle of Harajuku and yet, within the shrine, it feels as though the modern world never existed.

Divine.

Next post: Goodbye Nippon, we’re going home!

Until next time,

Kally & Mon.

Visiting Meiji Jingu

The easiest way to visit the Meiji Shrine is to make your way to Harajuku station, turn right on exiting the station and walk up the street to a major intersection. Turn right again at the intersection and you’ll find the Torii Gate entrance.

Meiji Shrine Harajuku Shibuya  Tokyo Japan  JaPlanning maps travel

Access map to Meiji Shrine

As this map demonstrates, you can also alight at Kitasando or Yoyogikoen to reach Meiji Shrine.

Opening hours

Meiji Shrine

  • Open: Sunrise to sunset
  • No closing days
  • Admission fee: Free

Treasure House

  • Open: 9am – 16.30pm (16.00 Nov to Feb)
  • Closed: some week days
  • Admission fee: 500 JPY

Treasure House annex

  • Open: 9am – 16.30pm (16.00 Nov to Feb)
  • No closing days
  • Admission fee: 500 JPY

Inner Garden

  • Open: 9am – 16.00pm (16.30 March – Oct)
  • No closing days
  • Admission fee: 500 JPY

Sources:

  1. Japan Tourist
  2. Wikipedia – Meiji Shrine
  3. Wikipedia – Emperor Meiji

Image Credits:

[Image Credit (1): Wikipedia]

[Image Credit: (2-7): Monique Nielsen]

When did you visit Meiji Shrine and what did you think?

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3 thoughts on “Meiji Shrine – Shibuya

  1. Pingback: Robot Restaurant – Shinjuku | JaPlanning

  2. Pingback: Genuinely Japan | JaPlanning

  3. Pingback: Tips for visiting Japan – Part IV – Tokyo | JaPlanning

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