In 1867, Japan was an isolated island nation ruled by shoguns and relying on agriculture. Then Emperor Meiji took over and everything changed. Japan’s shogunate system was abolished and land and power became concentrated with the Emperor. Through a series of reforms, industrial and military power increased and Japan shed its feudalism in exchange for a place in the modern world. By the time of Emperor Meiji’s death in 1912, Japan had become a major industrial nation.
The Meiji Jinju and Gyoen is a Shinto shrine surrounded by gardens dedicated to Emperor Meiji. It was originally built between 1915 and 1926, but it was destroyed (along with most everything else in Tokyo) during World War II. The lovely shrine we see today was built in 1958. After walking through the center of Tokyo, the sudden peace and quiet of the grounds is almost startling. The surrounding forest quiets the din of the city and makes this an island of tranquility. The giant torii at the entrances are made of cypress over 1,700 years old and give the grounds an ancient feel.
A Shinto shrine is a place of worship so bow once at the torii, then enter. When you get to the main building, you will see a water basin and some ladles. Put some water in the ladle and rinse your hands and then put some of the water in your hand and rinse your mouth. Now you are fit to enter the shrine. At the altar, throw some coins in the box, bow twice, clap twice, make a wish, and then bow before leaving.
Shinto shrines are beautiful places and welcome visitors. You do not have to perform the rituals, but you can if you like.
Meiji Shine and Gardens are an oasis of peace in the heart of Tokyo.