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Meiji Jingu

Listed under Tombs & Memorials in Tokyo, Japan.

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In the last two weeks I have been to the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, and though wonderful I would recommend this simple temple over the others because it really is a place for meditation and contemplation. It's in the middle of a park, cool and dense with a wood of trees donated by people from all over Japan as a tribute to the Emperor Meiji who this shrine was built for. The idea of that gesture is very touching when you learn about it sitting in the cool shelter of this wonderfully soundproofing wood in a the courtyard of a shrine which seems about as far away from the busy streets of Harajuku as it could be, and part of another, slower, more gracious time.

Simple in design, the cyprus trees have been shaped in the same way as the temples I have quickly become familiar with, but unpainted they have a piousness the ornate bright and beautiful reds, greens, golds and blues cant match. Two big trees grow in the courtyard spreading up to the green copper roofs, and though the gates are grand and cafefully designed they're also simple and lovely.

But the thing that really makes a difference is the atmosphere of genuine respect. People come here to say their prayers and worship the Kami, the Shinto spirits, of Emperor Meiji and his Empress Shoken, Japan's rulers at the beginning of the 20th Century, who really sound like open minded, honest rulers, if ever there be any. This feeling of atmosphere may have been helped along by the fact that I saw a few monks, and a few people meditating in the grounds and there is a ring of wooden prayer tokens hanging all around one of the trees on which wishes and prayers are written in many languages. Many of them are quite serious but some of them wish simply for a good result in exams or a passed driving test - I appreciate the honesty - many of us faced with the prospect of publicising our deepest wishes would have to opt for something less selfish.

Worshipers wash their hands outside the courtyard grounds before approaching the main temple then toss coins, 50 yen is an auspicious amount, take a moment to pray clap twice then take another moment. They seem un-bothered by the respectful visitors watching on, and for those of us who aren't comfortable taking part in something they don't quite understand you can still buy a prayer marker - like a wooden christmas tree decoration you write on - for 500 yen and make your prayer publicly or get a poem from the collection of 100,000 written by Emperor Meiji and 30,000 written by Empress Shoken.

Mine, by Empress Shoken, reads:

Ever downwards water flows,

But mirrors lofty mountains;

How fitting that our heart also

Be humble, but reflect high aims.

Enough to make me go home and learn more about Meiji and the Shinto faith, which must surely be a good result as far as Meiji's Kami is concerned.

Close to Harajuku Station on the JR Line.

Written by  Kat Mackintosh.

Other expert and press reviews

“Meiji Jingu”

'The Meiji Shrine honors the spirits of Emperor Meiji, who died in 1912, and Empress Shoken. It was established by a resolution of the Imperial Diet the year after the emperor's death to commemorate his role in ending the long isolation of Japan under t… Read more...

Written by press. Fodors

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