Temples & Shrines: Meiji Shrine
Meiji Jingu Shrine 明治神宮
Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu) is adjacent to Yoyogi Park, smack in the heart of ultra-fashionable Tokyo. Aoyama, Omotesando, and Harajuku are a short walk away; Shibuya and Shinjuku are a couple of stops on the Yamanote Line.
Meiji Jingu Shrine is is a short walk from Yoyogi Station on the Yamanote Line. The surrounding Yoyogi Park includes the site of the 1964 Olympics. Kenzo Tange's Yoyogi National Stadium was built for those Games and is still a Tokyo landmark.
Meiji Jingu Shrine History
The Meiji Shrine was completed in 1920 and is Japan's most famous Shinto shrine. Yoyogi Park itself is a large, dense area of green tranquility in which the buzz and hum of the city quickly recede.
Meiji Jingu Shrine is dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji (1852-1912) and his wife, Empress Shoken (1849-1914). The 15-year-old Emperor Meiji ascended the throne in 1867 as Japan saw the violent end of over 260 years of Tokugawa rule and the Meiji Restoration (Meiji Isshin) ushered in a period of industrialization, urbanization and colonial expansion as Japan began to attempt to catch up with the major Western powers.
After their deaths in the early part of the 1900s, Meiji Jingu Shrine was built to venerate them. Meiji Jingu Shrine became a meeting point for Japanese right wing radicals leading up to World War II, in which it was destroyed by American bombing in 1945 and rebuilt through public donations in 1958.
Meiji Jingu Shrine Features
The two torii gates at the entrance to the shrine are 40 feet high. When you pass through (under), you are symbolically entering a sacred place and leaving behind the everyday. The path to the shrine buildings is lined by large cedar trees.
Note: unless you like crowds, do NOT go to Meiji Jingu Shrine on November 3rd, which is the Emperor Meiji's birthday and also a national holiday, or on New Year's Day. As many as a million people will jam the shrine and park on these two days.
Perhaps the most beautiful area in Meiji Jingu Shrine is the Inner Garden (Jingu Nai-en), which in late June is filled with over 150 species of irises in full bloom in the Minami-ike Shobuda (Iris Garden). It is said the Emperor Meiji designed the Nai-en Garden himself for the pleasure of his wife. Further in is the Treasure House Annex, where the royal couple's clothes and personal things are kept.
The Treasure House to the left of the main shrine buildings exhibits portraits of previous Japanese emperors and the elaborate court kimono worn by the Meiji monarchs.
Other buildings of note in the shrine complex are a Kaguraden for sacred kagura dances and the various shrine gates: Minami Shinmon, Gehaiden and the huge Otorii gate built in 1975 from Japanese cypress from Mount Tandai in Taiwan.
The park that surrounds Meiji Jingu Shrine is a forest of some 120,000 trees of 365 different species. You quickly forget you are in the world's largest city.
Meiji Jingu Shrine Festival
Meiji Jingu's spring festival is May 2-3; fall festival November 1-3.
Meiji Jingu Shrine Hours and Admission
Free admission to temple grounds; 500 yen to see the irises, 500 yen to enter the Treasure House.
Meiji Jingu Shrine Access
Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line
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