About Meiji Jingu
Meiji Jingu is a sacred shrine to Emperor Meiji, modern Japan’s first emperor following the fall of the Samurais and his wife, Empress Shoken. It is located in central Tokyo, Japan.
History of Meiji Jingu
Born in 1852, Emperor Mutsuhito Meiji ascended to the throne at the young age of sixteen and proved himself a great reformer. As part of his Five Major Policies, Meiji dismantled the Tokugawa government through what is known as the Meiji Restoration.
By the time of Meiji’s death in 1912, Japan had undergone an incredible transformation, becoming far more open in terms of foreign relations and growing in prosperity, much of which was down to Meiji’s policies. Meiji’s wife died in 1914, following which the Meiji-Jingu Shrine was constructed in their honour in the midst of a dense forest and enshrined on 1 November 1920.
However, much of the shrine was destroyed in air raids during the Second World War. Most of what is visible today dates to 1958, when Meiji Jingu was rebuilt. The shrine actually lies in a large forest (made up of over 120,000 trees).
Made up of three sections, Meiji Jingu consists of a series of shrine buildings, inner and outer gardens and a Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery. One enters the Meiji Jingu through two of Japan’s largest gates or “tori”, which date back over 1,700 years and bear the imperial seal.
Meiji Jingu today
Visiting Meiji Jingu is a very peaceful experience and one imbued with a great sense of the Japanese culture, particularly when traditional tea ceremonies or one of the many wedding ceremonies held there tales place. It’s an experience in great contrast to the rest of the buzzing city of Tokyo in which Meiji Jingu resides. The only real time when Meiji Jingu experiences large crowds of over a million people is in early January and late October, when the Hatsu-mōde and Autumn Grand Festivals are celebrated there.
Meiji JIngu is still very much an active shrine: you should purify yourself by pouring water over your hands at the temizuya (font) just before the final tori (purity is extremely important in Shinto Buddhism). You can also make offerings at the shrine or purchase charms.
Look out for the gardens – the only accessible piece of land outside the temple. They’re particularly resplendent in June, when the irises bloom.
Getting to Meiji Jingu
The complex has multiple entrances, helpfully all well connected. Harajuku, Kita-sando, Yoyogi, and Sangubashi stations are the closest four: once you arrive at any of the gates, it’s a 10 minute walk or so to the shrine itself. No vehicles are permitted inside the grounds. Tokyo’s famously efficient train system is by far the best way to access Meiji Jingu, but taxis would also get you here easily.