Transition from the Worldly to the Sacred at Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine

One of the things that I find amazing about traveling in Asia is that you can step off the modern, chaotic city street and into a peaceful, spiritual haven. The two co-exist perfectly together in Asian culture, and I really love that. There are two entrances to the Meiji Shrine, and you’ll recognize the entrance by the large, wooden torri gate. These traditional Japanese gates usually mark the entrance to Shinto shrines. They are symbolic of the transition from the worldly into the spiritual. Tradition calls to bow one to the gate as you enter and again as you leave.

Meiji Shrine

After passing through the gate, you’ll journey through a tunnel of trees towards the shrine. The forest itself is also a dedication to the Emperor Meiji, the Empress Shoken, and the virtues they represented. Japanese citizens donated over 100,000 trees to create this forest inside Tokyo. You’ll eventually find your way to another torii gate that marks the entrance into the heart of the Meiji Shrine.

Meiji Shrine

The Meiji Shrine is a Shinto Shrine that was originally built in 1920 to honor Emperor Meiji. He became emporer at age 15 and ruled over Japan from 1867-1912. Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, are credited with bringing Japan into a modern era. This, however, is not the original Meiji Shrine. Like most historic landmarks in Japan, the original Meiji Shrine was destroyed by Allied air raids during World War II. This re-creation of the original building was built in 1958.

Meiji Shrine

Visitors of any faith can approach the main temple to say a prayer. As part of the traditional prayer ritual, you should approach the temple, bow twice, clap twice, say your prayer, and bow once to complete the ritual. Visitors can also express their thanks and prayers on an Ema, a wooden tablet available at one of the amulet offices. There are tables with pens and markers where visitors can write a letter to the deities, called a Kiganbun. Visitors usually leave a small monetary donation along with the Kiganbun. It’s beautiful to see all of the prayers and wishes written in so many languages from around the world.

Meiji Shrine

Don’t forget to stop and see the wall of sake barrels. One is decorated and added to the display every year in honor of the enshrined deities.

Meiji Shrine

Traveler’s Tips:

  • The Meiji Shrine is free to the public and is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Visit their website to get more information about hours and special events.
  • It is a sacred place and should be treated as such. No photographs are allowed in any area that is covered by a roof.
  • The Meiji Shrine is easily accessible by train. Exit the Yamanote Line at either Harjuku Station or Yoyogi Station.

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