You know that a city has its heart (lung?) in the right place when there are public parks and green spaces that are accessible (and free) and bang in the middle of the city. Tokyo was seriously impressive like that, and visiting the Meiji Jingu Shrine was one of my favourite things to do in the city.
I had most part of the weekend to explore the city, and decided to make Meiji Jingu my first port of call on Sunday morning. It started out as a windy, rainy morning, but I didn’t quite mind it!
The shrine is located within a forest that is spread over some 170 acres. And once you step inside the forest area (passing under the first massive torii gates), it’s rather difficult to believe that the ever-busy Harajuku station is less than a 5-minute walk away. The forest has about 120,000 trees, which were donated by people from all parts of the country when the shrine was established in the 1920s.
The original shrine was completed in 1926, but after being destroyed during WWII, it was restored and reconstructed by 1958. Most of the current structures actually belong to the 1958 restoration.
The shrine is a dedication to Emperor Meiji (who ruled Japan during the early 1900s) and his wife, Empress Shoken. He was a revered figure in Japan, and is credited with having brought about the industrial revolution in Japan and transforming it into a world power.
I loved the simplicity of the shrine and the forest surrounding it. It was in sharp contrast to the tourist trap that is Senso-ji (a Buddhist temple). The whole area is so tranquil and serene, and despite all the crowds, it still never seemed overcrowded.
I did pay a fee of ¥500 to enter the Inner Garden area – this is where the Iris Garden is located and also Kiyomasa’s Well (which is reportedly rather popular, but seemed underwhelming in person!). The Iris Garden is supposed to be in bloom around June – I am sure it would be a delightful view during that time!
There are a few rows of sake barrels towards the exit of the Meiji Jingu shrine. Cool fact about these sake barrels – they are actually all offerings to the gods! They’ve been donated by various sake brewers from all over the country, and are used during official ceremonies and festivals in the shrine.
I thought I would spend about 30-45 minutes at this place, but ended up spending close to 2 hours. I clearly hadn’t factored in the vast expanse of the shrine. Also, once you’re there, the peacefulness of the place just takes over your senses and compels you to slow down, take a stroll around, look at the flowers and the ponds, and really just be all there.
Visiting Meiji Jingu would be one of my Top 5 things to do in Tokyo for sure! Have you been there before? How was your experience?