We were with a friend at Meiji Shrine on the weekend and there were a few things going on – weddings and children coming of age celebrations.

I enjoyed watching the posing of this wedding party, the photographer and his staff must have adjusted an arm here – a leg there, for 10 minutes.

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The bride is wearing the head covering that is traditionally worn to cover her “horns”.

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Perhaps this bride is happy because she does not have anything to hide (smile).

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Everywhere you looked were children in colorful traditional dress, to celebrate their coming of age. Of course, parents were being parents, primping and preening – that is the same in every culture.

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The path to the shrine was lined with ornate flower arrangements. No idea what they were for, but I have not seen daisies arranged like Japanese trees before. Very pretty.

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As always, lots to see at Meiji shrine.


Last weekend Timeout Tokyo highlighted the ‘Thank-you dolls’ event at Meiji Shrine, a ritual where people bring in their dolls and monks bless them – driving out the spirits so that they are cleansed.

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A respectful way to eliminate the dolls from a family’s home.

Kobayashi explained that festivals such as this are rooted in ancient purification rites performed as the seasons change, and that long ago the dolls were votive symbols in human form. In fact, she pointed out, the word for “doll” (ningyo) actually means “human form” when it is written in kanjicharacters.

But in addition to respect for them being rooted in ritual and symbolism, Kobayashi said the dolls also “fulfill an educational purpose — teaching us to be nice to them because they are vulnerable.”

It is worth reading the whole story here.

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We arrived at the shrine to see row upon row of dolls being set up by white gloved, mask wearing volunteers in the whitest of clothes.

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A monk standing watch at one end.

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Covering half the square, a close look revealed some very interesting dolls. Config: Canon 5D Mark III with 70-200mm f/2.8.

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There were a lot of samurai dolls.

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More than a few sets of empty armor. Does empty armor have a spirit?

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And a lot of geishas.

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And last but not least, what looks like a North American set of dolls (there were lots). For some reason, these reminded me of a TV show from my childhood. I have no idea which one, but they look like they came from a 70’s puppet based show. No idea …

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Another interesting day in Tokyo.


Last weekend we headed to Meiji shrine for the ‘Thanks Dolls’ event. That area of Tokyo is a hub of activity. The shrine was very busy. Config: Canon 5D Mark III with my 28-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8.

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And in the short time that we were there, we saw two different bridal parties.

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You don’t see people walking around the area smoking. They all go to designated outdoor areas like this one. There we 50 people crowded into one area, beside the main walkway. I believe it is illegal to smoke in non-designated outdoor areas. Awesome. Great way to control smoking litter (discarded cigarette ends).

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A dragon fly, as close as I could get with the 70-200mm from atop the bridge.

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Sometimes I marvel at the sheer volume of the crowds in Tokyo and … some of the fashion in those crowds (smile)

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A busy Sunday afternoon!



Into the main shrine.

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As you can see by the sky, another beautiful day in Tokyo. Since we have arrived, it has not dipped below 40C. It is 32C every day but feels like 40C due to the humidity. The UV is in the teens and at 4:30AM – the sun is hotter than it ever gets in Canada. It makes it a little hot to get to work (I am in this awkward position – half way between the train station and the office, so I just walk/bike there) but all in all, quite wonderful. I never need to see snow again during my regular daily routine (Japan skiing is some of the best in the world – so we will be heading there) and everyone says the 20C fall is spectacular ….

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Enter the shrine and you come upon a courtyard.

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In the center of the courtyard is a tree, with wooden placards surrounding it.

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Or in this case, a divine tree holding the wishes of many.

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We spent quite a while reading the various wishes. A few that jumped out at me (lots written in English). The business person:

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This one stopped me – it should be quoted. The thinker:

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The lover (or teenager):

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Perhaps he was looking at this when he wrote it.

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The courtyard has a shrine (no photos allowed) where you make a small donation and in return get a waka (Japanese poem), one of the 100K+ that Emperor Meiji wrote during his reign. Empress Shoken wrote more than 30,000. From the Emperor:

For the times to come

And for meeting what must be met

All of our people

Must be taught to walk along

The path of sincerity.

From Empress Shoken:

By making wider

The paths of deep friendship

We, without travel,

Have come to know the customs

Of lands throughout the world.

A wonderful day out.



Our first stop was Homotsu-Tenjishitsu, a small museum filled with different memorabilia (no cameras allowed). We then made our way through the park accidentally heading to Homotsuden, the treasure museum in the back of the park – bypassing the central shrine. Filled with wildlife and more than 120,000 trees, the park is a spectacular green space in the heart of Tokyo.

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Homotsuden holds many treasures enshrined in a beautiful building. Again .. no cameras allowed.

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By taking this round-about way we were able to enter the very popular central shrine by a side entrance. At the two entrances to main shrine there is a particular etiquette to be observed and pay respect to the Emperor and Empress. At the Temizuya entrance fountain you are to follow these steps:

1. Rinse your left hand.

2. Rinse your right hand.

3. Pour water into your left hand.

4. Rinse your mouth.

5. Rinse your left hand again.

6. Rinse the dipper (allow the remaining water to run down the handle of the dipper).

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We were virtually alone at the fountain, the other entrance had 60 or 70 people crammed in trying to observe the ritual.

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We were then off to the central shrine.

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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).