The History of Meiji Shrine

The Shinto Meiji Shrine offers tranquility and serenity to all the people seeking peace right in the heart of Tokyo.
Tokyo is generally known for the shopping malls, jam-packed subways, energetic city life and people drowning in technology but it has much more to offer. Fenced by the cedar plantations and stunning gardens, Meiji shrine—called Meiji Jingu in Japanese—has an austere splendor that serves as the flawless escape from the crowded Tokyo.

The first emperor of modern Japan, Meiji, played an instrumental role in introducing Japan to the outside world. Emperor Meiji assumed the imperial position in 1867 and changed Japan’s fate by the industrial revolution done during his 45 years of rule; therefore, his four and a half decades of rule is most commonly known as the Meiji Era in Japan.
Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912 and with his death, the Meiji Era also ended. After the death of the emperor, the bicameral legislature authorized the construction of the shrine to commemorate emperor’s role in the development of Japan. Emperor Meiji and his spouse, Empress Shoken, were known to visit an Iris garden in an area of Tokyo which was selected as the site to build the shrine.

The shrine was designed in famous Nagare-zukuri style using cypress and copper. Later in 1920s, after the completion of the shrine, it was dedicated to the deified spirits of the emperor and the empress. Sheltered by 120,000 trees of 365 different species donated by people throughout the country and stretching over an area of 170 acres, Meiji shrine is located in the forest which was established during the construction of the shrine.
The captivating design of the halls attract visitors from all over the world. The pleasant smell flooding the air and hundreds of different trees exhibiting different colors with the seasonal changes make people awestruck. Main buildings of shrine are located almost a ten-minute walk from both the southern and northern entrances. Both of the entrances are near the railway stations, enabling the visitors to have a nice walk to the shrine. Harajuku station is located near the southern entrance while Yoyogi station is nearest to the northern entrance.

Entry into the shrine premises is marked by 12-meter tall Torri gates which, themselves, depict the distinct and enthralling

Japanese architecture. The moment you step into the grounds of shrine through the gates, the sound and sight of the busy city fade away and the tranquility starts comforting your brain. Visitors delve into Shinto activities including making offers at the main hall, buying charms and amulets or writing their wishes on the Ema. The Shinto music flowing in the halls and the courtyard of the shrine multiply the soothing effect.

On the right side to the Torii, you can find the entrance to the treasure house which is referred to as homotsuden in japan and it serves the purpose of exhibiting the personal items of the Emperor Meiji including his letters. To the left side of the Torii, you will find a magnificently beautiful garden said to have been designed by the emperor for his wife.

The Meiji Jingu garden is one of the oldest parts of the precinct.

A couple during a Shinto Wedding
A Shinto wedding at Meiji Shrine

Irises, empress’s favorite flower, can be seen in full bloom during June in the garden.
Almost three million people pay visit to the shrine during new year holidays and on the weekends, you can get a chance to witness a Shinto marriage procession which are famed due to the traditional attires of the bride: an immaculate white hooded kimono called a uchikake, and the groom: black Kimono usually with his families symbol embroidered on it in white.

The Gaien part has a stadium where Yabusame games can be spectated. Back in 2001, US President G. W. Bush observed a Yabusame game during his visit to the shrine.
Meiji Memorial hall, which was originally used in late 19th for government meetings and discussions for drafting the Meiji constitution, century is also worth visiting. It is now used for Shinto marriages and also serves as a restaurant. Another fascinating sight can be the priests and the maidens wearing tradition clothes.

The shrine and the garden were destroyed by the US air bombings during WWII. They were both reconstructed in 1958 after a nationwide fundraising. As of now, the shrine consists of two areas commonly known as Naien and Gaien. Naien is generally called the inner precinct housing shrine buildings and the treasure museum. Gaien is the outer precinct including the Memorial picture gallery. During the stroll towards the central hall and the courtyard, you’ll find a wall of sake barrels and amazingly ornamented things to take pictures.
If you are planning on visiting this shrine or any other, I would recommend  Meiji Shine because all this tranquility and nature is free of cost except Meiji Jingu garden, and the treasure hall for which admission fee is 500 yen each. Here is a look when I visited Meiji Shrine in January 2018 with my friends.

 

 

Written by: Tokyo Drew

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