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