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Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu)

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Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu) Review

This 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 the Tokugawa Shogunate and setting the country on the road to modernization. Virtually destroyed in an air raid in 1945, it was rebuilt in 1958.

A wonderful spot for photos, the mammoth entrance gates (torii), rising 40 feet high, are made from 1,700-year-old cypress trees from Mt. Ari in Taiwan; the crosspieces are 56 feet long. Torii are meant to symbolize the separation of the everyday secular world from the spiritual world of the Shinto shrine. The buildings in the shrine complex, with their curving, green, copper roofs, are also made of cypress wood. The surrounding gardens have some 100,000 flowering shrubs and trees.

An annual festival at the shrine takes place on November 3, Emperor Meiji's birthday, which is a national holiday. On the festival and New Year's Day, as many as 1 million people come to offer prayers and pay their respects. Several other festivals and ceremonial events are held here throughout the year; check by phone or on the shrine Web site to see what's scheduled during your visit. Even on a normal weekend the shrine draws thousands of visitors, but this seldom disturbs its mood of quiet serenity.

The peaceful Inner Garden (Jingu Nai-en), where the irises are in full bloom in the latter half of June, is on the left as you walk in from the main gates, before you reach the shrine. Beyond the shrine is the Treasure House, a repository for the personal effects and clothes of Emperor and Empress Meiji—perhaps of less interest to foreign visitors than to the Japanese.

    Contact Information

  • Address: 1–1 Kamizono-cho, Yoyogi Aoyama, Harajuku, and Shibuya, Tokyo, 151-8857 | Map It
  • Phone: 03/3379–9222
  • Cost: Shrine free, Inner Garden ¥500, Treasure House ¥500
  • Hours: Shrine daily sunrise–sunset; Inner Garden Mar.–Nov., daily 9–4; Treasure House daily 10–4; closed 3rd Fri. of month
  • Website:
  • Subway: Chiyoda and Fukutoshin subway lines, Meiji-Jingu-mae Station; JR Yamanote line, Harajuku Station (Exit 2).
  • Location: Aoyama, Harajuku, and Shibuya
Updated: 08-19-2013

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    New Year's

    We were just in Tokyo visiting. And we went to the Meiji shrine on New Year's Eve. Before midnight, somehow (I won't say how exactly we did it), we were able to follow a small group (VIPs?) of about 40 well-dressed people, who came out of a small building (a small temple?) on the side not too far from the Meiji shrine. They were escorted right INTO the Meiji shrine courtyard while millions of people were waiting outside the courtyard. The group formed two lines along the two sides of the courtyard facing the shrine. We witnessed the blessing (of a large tree leaf which I was sure had important significance since the 40 VIPs bowed at it. Please someone explain to me what it was) by two priests. We also saw the two priests walking slowly on the steps inside the shrine towards the top of the shrine. There was also singing (of the Japan national anthem? Please confirm that to me). And we witnessed the hitting of the big drum right at midnight. Followed by the praying of about 10 men in suits (guess they were politicians?) inside the shrine. Was the PM there? Sorry we didn't know what he looked like. Then it was our (the 40 or so VIPs and us) turn to pray inside the shrine. The VIPs (and us) were then escorted to a structure (another shrine? or temple?) on the side of the main shrine. They were taking off their shoes on a red carpet before entering that structure. But we didn't follow them to it and we left. It was a very special and spiritual and sacred moment and we really felt lucky and privileged to be among the 40 or so VIPs who had special and first access to the shrine on New Year's at midnight. Please kindly explain the meanings of what happened to us that night with the VIPs to me. And who were those VIPs? Why did they have special and first access to the shrine on New Year's Eve? From what we saw, it seemed to us the millions of people waiting outside the shrine were not allowed to be inside the courtyard of the shrine at all, let alone the shrine itself. They were just passing through the OUTSIDE of the courtyard. Why weren't they allowed to be inside like the VIPs? Thanks!

    by imissjapan, 1/4/09

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