Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Japan - Meiji Shrine, Harajuku, Tokyo

I was surprised by the number of shrines that Japan has. In many corners and small streets, we accidentally discovered shrines. Especially in Kyoto. In Tokyo, there weren't as many shrines, but there are some that are famous and worth the visit. The Meiji Shrine is pretty famous and considered a touristy spot. Of course we had to visit this shrine!

The Meiji Shrine is dedicated to the deceased Emperor Meiji and his wife. According to what I read at the shrine, Emperor Meiji was loved by the Japanese and under his ruling, the country was quite prosperous. 

So how did we get here? We took the Tokyo Metro and exited at Harajuku station.

At the exit of Harajuku station
Harajuku was just as I remembered it from 2008. Not much has changed since then. Silly me - back in 2008, I had no idea what shrines were, let alone that there was this Meiji Shrine. Fortunately, I was given a second chance. Upon exiting the station, Meiji Shrine is on the right hand side.

Direct translation of the Kanji: Shrine Bridge

Walking towards the Meiji Shrine
At the entrance of the Meiji Shrine 
The torii leading to the Meiji Shrine
A torii is a Japanese gate. I learned that all Japanese shrines have a torii (pictured above) that leads to the actual shrine. It's also how I was able to tell the difference between a shrine and a temple. The buddhist temples don't have a torii.

The road leading to Meiji Shrine
I love how Japan is so modern yet so much of its culture is retained. The road to the shrine was very peaceful and calming. The road was lined with big, tall trees. It was like the city didn't even exist. It was the perfect weather because it wasn't too hot. I believe it took about 30 minutes to walk to the actual shrine. We visited this shrine around noon on a weekday, which worked out great because there weren't any crowds.

Beautiful sake barrels donated to the Meiji Shrine
Beautiful sake barrels donated to the Meiji Shrine
After a nice stroll, we finally reached the entrance of the shrine. Before entering a shrine, the Japanese believe that one must cleanse the mind and body. In order to do so, each shrine is equipped with water and mini water scoops for people to use at the entrance. The practice is to use your right hand to pick up the water scoop, scoop some water, and pour some water to rinse on your left hand. After you rinse your left hand, you switch and rinse your right hand. Thereafter, you cup your left hand, pour some water on your palm, and touch the water with your lips - not in your mouth and definitely don't swallow. Finally, you use both hands to hold the water scoop and hold it up vertically to let any excess water roll down. After those steps, I was cleansed!

Preparing to cleanse my mind and body before entering Meiji Shrine
Meiji Shrine
Meiji Shrine
Very simple architecture. I love the minimalist style.

Here I was trying to read that sign, trying to comprehend what the giant rope symbolizes. Alas, the three years of Japanese failed me.
For about ~$5.00 USD, you can write your wish down!
Writing our wishes down was my favorite part whenever we visited shrines. Most Japanese shrines sell wooden tablets (known as ema in Japanese) where people are able to write their wishes down. Meiji Shrine sold these for about $5.00, which is reasonably priced. Visiting the shrines are free and the sales of ema help to support the shrine financially. These wooden tablets are hung at a designated area where the god will receive the wishes. Many wishes I read touched my heart - people wished for their children, their loved ones, for a healthy life. Some even wrote hoping a lost loved one will come back to their life.

We bought an ema and wrote our wishes and aspirations down too. We also promised to come back again if our wishes come true - so Meiji Shrine, we hope to see you soon again :)


  1. beautiful pictures. I really like the one with the close up. n pictures really show the atmosphere of the place.