For my first weekend in Tokyo, I decided to explore the area and walked to the Meiji Jingu Shrine twice over the weekend – The first time to see the shrine itself and the second to see a bit of the Hinamatsuri festival, were paper boats representing dolls were put into the water by children.
Entrance fee: Free for the shrine itself, 500円 (£3.5) for the iris gardens, that I hear are amazing (but not in bloom at the moment, so I need to come back – maybe in May or in summer)
This beautiful shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of emperor Meiji and his wife, the empress Shōken and was established on November 1st, 1920. I have read somewhere that is one of the most popular shrines in Japan, and it is easy to see why, as it definitely is beautiful, surrounded by a forest of some 100,000 trees donated by people from all over Japan and from overseas, who worked voluntarily to create it.
Japan has two religions, that are often merged together, Buddhism and Shinto. Shinto is the religion autochthon of Japan. It is a very ancient one and has more to do with a collection of rituals and methods meant to regulate the relations between living people and the spirit than a strict religion as we would intend in the Western world with actual rules and one god to worship.
It is an animistic religion, where each shrine is dedicated to one or several gods (or Kami), which are more an essence that resides in all things, but especially in nature (though there are objects that are deemed sacred). The term kami refers also to the power of phenomena that inspire a sense of wonder to the person seeing it.
Because of the influence of Shinto, Buddhism in Japan is also different from Buddhism in other countries – for example, important kami have been associated with important Buddhist deities. Thus, Shinto and Buddhism achieved a perfect syncretism and even though they have been separated by the government from the Meiji era (1868) in an attempt to stop Buddhism’s influence, Japanese people still use both religions in their daily lives, according to their needs.
Something I found interesting about the Meiji Jingu Shrine was the barrels of consecrated sake, offered every year to the shrine by sake makers, but also of French wine (Bourgogne), offered to the shrine by various wine producers at the initiative of a Japanese owner of a French château. It is fitting because emperor Meiji was the one to promote modernization and knowledge of the Western world.
I won’t bore you guys with more words so instead, I have selected pictures!