Traveling can be so exciting. Sometimes questions come to mind that you never thought of before. In Tokyo, I made my way to the Meiji Shrine, and that’s where it started. The Meiji Shrine is one of the most popular sights in Tokyo and is located in Yoyogi Park. During the cherry blossom season, the park is one of the places to go for cherry blossom tourists – everything is bathed in pink blossoms and Japanese and tourists alike go crazy over so much nature. I was hoping to catch a bit of the cherry blossom hype as well, but unfortunately the strong winds the night before had swept away pretty much all the remnants of the dwindling cherry blossoms.
Religions in Japan: What is Shinto?
Anyway, off to the shrine. Unprepared as I was once again, I knew nothing about it. Shrine? Had to be something religious, I guess. But what about religions in Japan? I rarely felt stupid because I had no idea at all. The Japanese were not influenced by Christianity, and everything that went in the direction of Asia was to me always somehow connected to Buddhism. But this didn’t look like a buddhist temple at all.
One look at Wikipedia, travel guides and a few signs later, I knew: The Meiji Shrine is dedicated to one of the last emperors, Emperor Meiji, and his wife. And: It’s a Shinto temple. Shinto is an ancient Japanese religion and cultural philosophy – and if I’m honest, even after visiting and reading about it for a long time, it was too complex for me to really understand what it’s all about.
Shinto at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo
But enjoying and marveling at the new impressions was more than enough for me. For example, upon entering the shrine area, worshippers must complete a certain hand-washing ritual, following a highly specified sequence.
Also the prayer is very special. You stand in line. Pray. Then toss a coin. Clap your hands firmly twice. Pray. And that’s it. It’s fascinating how accurate Japanese are!
If you like, you can hang wooden boards with your personal wishes on a tree. And some of the messages on the other boards are just touching.
Getting married at a Shinto shrine
For an emotional memory on top, there were several original Shinto weddings that took place on site – and brides as well as wedding guests looked so beautiful, I would have loved to throw myself into a kimono right there and then.
Meiji Jing Gyoen – the Japanese garden
If you come from the direction of Harajuku to the Meiji Shrine, you should definitely visit the Meiji Jing Gyoen, a separate garden in the middle of the park. There’s an admission fee, but the sheer silence is so worth it. It’s hard to believe you’re in the middle of a huge metropolis.
The sake barrels at the Meiji Shrine
Also near the entrance to the garden is a huge wall of sake barrels – all are donations that are supposed to bring good luck. And to visitors it’s an amazing photo op!