Though it only dates back to the early 20th century, the Meiji Shrine has become one of the most popular sightseeing destinations in the Japanese capital. It sits in 72-acre forest on the edge of the Yamanote train line, near some of Tokyo’s busiest and most modern neighborhoods.
The shrine houses the spirit of Emperor Meiji, the monarch who regained leadership of Japan after the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate and whose policies were instrumental in modernizing a nation that had been essentially closed off to the world for over two centuries.
Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912, followed in 1914 by his wife, the Empress Shoken. Upon their deaths, the grieving populace of Japan donated 100,000 trees from around the country, leading to the creation of the shrine’s current wooded precincts. A shrine itself was completed by 1920, and has housed the souls of the couple ever since.
Meiji Shrine is a popular spot for traditional Shinto weddings and it’s not uncommon to see multiple wedding parties dressed in kimono parading through the grounds or posing for professional photographs. The shrine is also a good spot for those looking to try omikuji (fortunes) or pick up an omamori, an amulet that protects of provides luck for certain circumstances.
In June, inner garden of Meiji Jingu becomes a must-see spot for blooming irises, as over 1500 purple flowers spring up in the garden’s back corner. The garden itself was created by the Emperor for his wife, so the Empress might find herself refreshed by the beauty of the natural setting. (While the main precincts of the shrine are free, the garden has a separate entrance fee of ¥500.)
Meiji Jingu holds a variety of festivals and events throughout the year. The shrine is one of the most popular locations for Tokyo residents to carry out the hatsumode tradition, the first shrine visit of the year. Various ceremonies commemorating the Emperor and Empress are held throughout the year. In spring and again in autumn, the shrine holds a seasonal festival, with events such as yabusame (archery on horseback), poetry readings and kagura performances. Meiji Jingu also welcomes large numbers of families in November, as they celebrate the Shichigosan (7-5-3) festival.
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