Hand Washing custom before entering Japans Meiji Jingo Shrine

Meiji Shrine located in Shibuya, Tokyo, is the Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.

Michael, one of my co-workers in Japan, and I went walking around the park and through the shrine one lovely sunny day. I lived in a very small place so spent most of my time outside if the weather permitted it.

Huge Torii gate at the entrance to the shrine park
Huge Torii gate at the entrance to the shrine park
Walking through the forest I did venture of the path a bit....
Walking through the forest I did venture of the path a bit….

We were greeted by a huge Torii leading to the Meiji Shrine complex.

Meiji Shrine is located in an evergreen forest that covers an area of 700,000 square-meters. The main path led us all the way through this lovely forest to the Shrine. We decided not to wander too far into the forest just in case we actually get lost seeing as we didn’t know the area.

 Barrels of sake (nihonshu) which are donated to the Meiji Shrine by its patrons
Barrels of sake (nihonshu) which are donated to the Meiji Shrine by its patrons
These barrels are each elaborately decorated
These barrels are each elaborately decorated

Before we reached the Shrine we came across all these barrels of sake (nihonshu) which are donated to the Meiji Shrine by its patrons. They are each elaborately decorated and it is quite striking finding them displayed like this on the outside of the shrine. I wonder if they actually drink the sake, and who would drink it?

The water basin in front of the shrine
The water basin in front of the shrine

In front of the shrine there is a water basin provided where you have to perform Temizu, a hand washing custom before going into the shrine. This was all very new to me so I asked for some help and a Japanese lady showed me the correct way to wash your hands and mouth. I was quite surprised to learn that there was a certain way to do this and tried to do it correctly and not offend anybody in the process.

 

Me trying to wash my hands the correct way before entering the shrine
Me trying to wash my hands the correct way before entering the shrine

This Custom is called Omairi performed by people visiting the shrine, I was told that one need not be Shinto to do this.

Getting to experience Japanese cultures first hand is such a great privilege
Getting to experience Japanese cultures first hand is such a great privilege

You take the dipper in your right hand and scoop up water. Pour some onto your left hand, then transfer the dipper to your left hand and pour some onto your right hand. Transfer the dipper to your right hand again, cup your left palm, and pour water into it, from which you will take the water into your mouth (never drink directly from the dipper), silently swish it around in your mouth (do not drink), then quietly spit it out into your cupped left hand (not into the reservoir). Then, holding the handle of the dipper in both hands, turn it vertically so that the remaining water washes over the handle. Then replace it where you found it.

 

Walking through the last Torii to reach the Shrine
Walking through the last Torii to reach the Shrine
The main shrine or temple in the complex
The main shrine or temple in the complex
I love these wooden shrines, they are stunning!
I love these wooden shrines, they are stunning!

The shrine buildings are in the middle of the forest and have an air of tranquility distinct from the surrounding city. Meiji Jingu is one of the Japan’s most popular shrines. In 1945 most of the original shrine buildings were burnt down by air raids of the war and were re-built in 1958. Before entering the shrine we had to take our shoes off as a sign of respect. All of these customs are very new to me and I love learning about them all.

These are Ema plaques that wishes or desires are written upon
These are Ema plaques that wishes or desires are written upon
Prayers left by visitors
Prayers left by visitors

As we excited the shrine we came across all these lovely wooden plaques. They are named Ema and are plaques that wishes or desires are written upon. They are then left here at the shrine so that one may get a wish or desire fulfilled. Some of them had a picture on them with the writing and are frequently found at larger Shrines. I think this is such a beautiful thing to do.

The tranquil gardens next to the shrine
The tranquil gardens next to the shrine

Part of the shrine complex is a beautiful garden that is landscaped around a huge pond which we came across by accident. For me it was one of the most tranquil parts of the shrine as it was quite deserted and a very peaceful place to sit and rest our tired feet for a while.

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6 comments

  1. Superb!

    I managed to take a ridiculously small number of photos both times I visited Meiji Jingu, so it’s great to see these shots. Makes me want to go back a third time (but not during a festival, and not when it’s raining! Maybe the third time will be the charm!)

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Like

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