Most books that have some type of Top 10 Tokyo list include Meiji Shrine near or at the top. We decided to travel there on the weekend and were not disappointed. Built to commemorate the life and times of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, the monarchy that opened Japan to the west and began modernizing the culture. A few items that I took note of:

  • Emperor Meiji turned Japan from a patchwork of medieval city states into a country, pulling Japan from the feudal era to pseudo-democracy (real democracy would take longer – but it was a start).
  • Empress Shoken is well known for her work to move women’s rights forward and established the Japanese Red Cross.
  • The Emperor’s views on embracing the rest of the world played a significant role in forming the views of Emperor Hirohito. Hirohito quoted this poem from his grandfather when trying to convince the Imperial Conference to pursue diplomatic action prior to WWII:

Across the four seas, all are brothers.
In such a world why do the waves rage, the winds roar?

The most amazing thing about the shrine is the park that surrounds it. Walk in and the city drops away, a beautiful forest of 120,000 trees surrounding the complex. Most people go straight for the central shrine; instead we walked around the side paths which meant that we avoided the larger crowds.

I now know what the torii at the main gate symbolizes:

A torii (鳥居・鳥栖・鶏栖?, lit. bird perch, /ˈtɔəri./) is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred (see Sacred-profane dichotomy).[1] The presence of a torii at the entrance is usually the simplest way to identify Shinto shrines, and a small torii icon represents them on Japanese road maps.[note 1] They are however a common sight at Japanese Buddhist temples too, where they stand at the entrance of the temple’s own shrine, called chinjusha(鎮守社?, tutelary god shrine) and usually very small.



Down the path from the main entrance are two racks of ‘offerings’ to the Emperor and Empress. On the right side are beautifully decorated barrels of sake, donated each year for generations.



I particularly liked this barrel.



The left encases barrels of wine from France with the following explanation and poem:



How they keep the reds at 13C in this heat is beyond me (smile).

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