Although I’ve been back in Los Angeles since July 2, I have a few more stories to tell that conclude my experience in Tokyo. The last week of my stay there was a flurry of activities which made it difficult for me to keep up with the blog–last-minute sightseeing, final obligations to complete the teacher training, packing and traveling. One of the sightseeing excursions was a visit to the Meiji Shrine which turned out to be a completely different experience than the Senso-ji Temple. Serene and cool, the impressive Meiji Shrine complex is situated on 175 tree covered acres with adjoining gardens that make up a surprisingly restful oasis located in the midst of Yoyogi Park. You first enter a towering Tori gate which dwarfs any human being and then follow a shaded path through a lush forest of pines. Along this tranquil walk on the path towards the shrine you pass a colorful wall of sake barrels (nihonshu) which are donated for ceremonies and festivals. Traditionally in Japan, sake has always been a way to bring gods and people together. Weddings and other services are often held at the Meiji Shrine and I have been told that if you can visit on Sundays, you may be able to see some of the ceremonies with participants wearing traditional kimonos.
After passing through another Tori, you can view murals depicting the history of the creation of the Shrine which is dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. The site was chosen because they used to visit an iris garden there and the original shrine built-in 1915-1921 was destroyed in WWII and rebuilt in 1958. In addition, 120,000 trees representing 365 species were donated and planted on the grounds.
Before entering the grounds you must stop by the purification fountain (Temizusha) and cleanse your mouth and hands before prayer (left hand first, then right and mouth). Once you finally reach the inner precinct (Naeien, the outer precinct is called Gaein) you walk through the vast plaza to the Main Shrine building. Customarily, you throw coins into the “Offering” box and then “bow twice, clap your hands twice and bow once again.” I then wrote out a prayer and sealed in an envelope which would later be presented at an altar.
There was a certain elegant austerity to the design of the shrine compound built of copper and cypress in the traditional “nagare-zukuri” style which lent itself to the hushed devotional silence of the surroundings. After roaming the grounds I went to the graceful Iris Garden which also had a koi pond surrounded by dense green trees. It was hard to believe I was in the middle of bustling Tokyo. As I started to leave I felt remarkably refreshed, I’m really glad I made it there…