“A giant patch of green and serenity in the middle of the chaos that is Tokyo.”
That is how I described Meiji Jingu Shrine. It’s a peculiar place, not in the odd sense, but in that it exists in a city that is so modern and busy. It was a nice escape and a pleasant way to start my Japanese journey.
After taking the morning to figure out how to get there – Tokyo Metro to Harajuku – my friend and I were on our way. Once in Harajuku we noticed that people were dressed differently than in Akasaka. In Akasaka, it was more business attire. In Harajuku it was more free spirited and apparently this is the place to find the “Gwen Stefani’s”, so that would make sense. After snaking our way through the streets and taking in the various shops and restaurants we made it to the Shrine entrance.
Once through the entrance, the hustle and bustle of the city faded away as the canopy of trees acted as a sound barrier allowing us to hear the quieter sounds like the loose pebbles moving beneath our feet with each step. Further down the path, we came upon a wall of sake barrels. The sake barrels are offered every year to the enshrined deities by the Meiji Jingu Nationwide Sake Brewers Association and other brewers wishing to show their respect to the souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.
Before entering the main Shrine building you are asked to pay respect in the form of rinsing your hands and drinking water.
After paying respect we pass through to the main Shrine area and take in the beauty that is the Main Shrine Building.
From here we walked around the grounds and at one point we could see the city peaking out from behind the trees and it served as a reminder that in fact we are in a metropolis.
Circling the grounds we then entered the Meiji Jingu Garden. The Garden is home to a fishing stand, iris fields, the Well of Kiyomasa, azaleas, water lilies, wistarias, and numerous other flowers. Although most of these were dormant, given the cool temperature, it was still a beautiful sight.
The sun was setting and the Shrine was a few minutes from closing so we made our way through the Garden and back to the main entryway. The cacophony of the city slowly faded into my ears as we reached the entrance. No longer would we be in a quite and peaceful setting but I was OK with that because it was a great experience.
Across the way we could see the National Staidum, home of the 1964 Olympic Opening Ceremony and a site for the future 2020 Summer games. I was lucky enough to take this photo of the sun setting just behind the stadium and I feel it is a perfect place to end this piece.