Address: 1-1, Kamizono-chō, Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0053 (〒151-8557 東京都渋谷区代々木神園町1-1). This Shinto shrine is about 14 miles (22.5 km) from Haneda International Airport. Take JR Yamanote Line (山手線) to Harajuku Station (原宿駅). When you get out of the station, follow where most people are going. You will then see a torii (鳥居), which is the south entrance to the shrine. Alternatively, you can take the subway — Chiyoda Line (東京地下鉄千代田線) or Fukutoshin Line (東京地下鉄副都心線) — and get off at Meiji-jingumae Station (明治神宮前駅).
Phone: 03-3379-5511
Admission: Free
Website: http://www.meijijingu.or.jp/ (in Japanese)

Meiji Jingu (明治神宮, Meiji Shrine) is dedicated to Emperor Meiji (明治天皇) and Empress Shoken (昭憲皇后). 122nd Emperor Meiji (1852-1912) is very much respected in Japan. Meiji Ishin (明治維新, Meiji Restoration) is an extremely important period in Japanese history, as this was the time when Japan underwent several reforms, leading to its becoming a modernized nation and a global power.

Every Shinto shrine has a torii (鳥居). Symbolically, the torii marks the separation between the human and the spiritual world. This is the torii that you see if you enter the shrine from JR Harajuku (原宿) station.

It is a good walk from the first gate to the shrine.

If you keep walking, you will see barrels of sake (酒, Japanese wine shown below) that are offered at Meiji Shrine every year to show deep respect for deified Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.

These are barrels of French wine offered by the wineries in Buorgogne (Burgundy) in eastern France to be consecrated at Meiji Jingu. I wanted to check if the barrels were empty, but I didn’t want to be reprimanded.

The next thing you will see is the otorii (大鳥居, the grand gate of the shrine). According to the explanation next to the torii, this is the biggest wooden torii of the myojin (明神) style in Japan.

At the end of the path lies the shrine itself.

The picture below shows what are called ema (絵馬), which are found in Shinto (神道) shrines. Shinto believers write their prayers or wishes on these wooden plaques, and they leave them hanging up at the shrine, where the kami (神, spirits or gods) are believed to receive them. If you look closely, many of the plaques contain the character combination, gan’i (願意, wish) or kigan (祈願, prayer), printed on the right side. (In traditional Japanese, one writes from top to bottom, right to left.) Most of the wishes and prayers are written in Japanese, but there are some written in English or some other language. Wishes vary. Some common ones are: success in work or on exams, marital bliss, having children, having good health. The ema are sold to help cover the shrine’s day-to-day expenses.

I am not related to either husband or wife in the picture below. I don’t even know them. But happiness is infectious. Just watching two happy people getting married in a famous Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken made me happy, too. So I took a picture of the couple. Marriage is such a wonderful thing.

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