A haven of calm and coolness in the middle of Harajuku, the Shinto shrine dedicated to the Meiji emperor is also the largest in Tokyo.
Comfortably installed in the heart of a magnificent 72-hectare park, it is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji, who died in 1912, and his wife the Empress Shōken, who died in 1941. It was built between 1912 and 1920, and more than 100,000 trees from all over Japan were planted here to honour their memory. The Meiji Emperor (1852-1912), Japan's 122nd emperor, is famous for leading the opening and modernization of Japan in the Meiji era of "enlightened government". Under his reign, a constitutional system was established and the old social hierarchies were abolished, thus laying the foundations for a nation-state.
The shrine is the largest Shintoist place of worship in the country. Marriages and other ceremonies such as Shichi-go-san (feast of children aged 3, 5 and 7) are regularly celebrated there. It is therefore recommended that certain principles of etiquette such as purifying the body with water or saluting the torii be respected. In the courtyard of the main building, wishes are hung on the offering trees. Waka, poems composed by the emperor and his wife, which they were particularly fond of, are offered to visitors. Forms, letters to the deities (kami), and ema, wooden tablets bearing wishes, are available to all for a fee. The priests then retrieve the messages and address them to the kami. All these little things are very nice souvenirs to take home.
The entrance to the park is via the large cypress wood torii from Mount Alishan in Taiwan. Paths lead to the various buildings that make up the sanctuary. In addition to the kaguraden, a music and dance hall built in the 1990s, you will also see the main building – the honden – built in the Nagare-zukuri style and the noritoden where the liturgy is recited. At the back of the sanctuary is the Treasury building, where objects relating to the emperor are displayed. In October 2019, a museum designed by Kengo Kuma and dedicated to the history of the Meiji era opened in the park to mark the 100th anniversary of the construction of the shrine. Not far from the main torii is a pretty garden (with a paying entrance fee) where a beautiful iris bed can be seen in June. During the hot summer months, the park is a real oasis where the temperature is a little lower than in the city. An ideal place to regain strength in the middle of the day, but beware of mosquito bites!
Open every day from sunrise to sunset. Free entrance.
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