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Meiji Jingu       Maps     Video

Meiji Jingu is the largest Shinto shrine in Tokyo, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his consort, Emperess Shoken, who passed away in 1912 & 1914 respectively. The shrine was constructed just after the first world war and the souls of the imperial couple were enshrined here on November 1st 1920. There are more important and more historic shrines in Japan than Meiji Jingu. If you are interested in visiting shrines, then visit the Grand Shrines of Ise, Kasuga Taisha, Izumo and Atsuta, Itsukushima Shrine near Hiroshima, an Inari shrine such as Fushimi or Toyokawa, a Toshogu and Hachiman shrine, Yasaka Jinja and perhaps Tagata Jinja. However if the numbers of visitors, especially around the new year is any indication there are very few that are more popular than Meiji Jingu.

The reason for this is all about location. Completed surrounded by concrete & steel, located in the middle of one the ugliest examples of urban planning is a perfect example of how to preserve nature, greenery and an oasis like retreat. Smack bang in the middle of Tokyo, the grounds includes 70 hectares (acres) of lush green forest with more than 100,000 trees from hundreds of species collected from all over Japan. Yet despite all the visitors, it is still possible to be alone. A visit to Kiyomasa's well in the Meiji Jingu garden (see below) while walking through a historic daimyo's garden is something worth doing.

It consists of three areas: Naien, or the inner precinct, centred on the shrine buildings; Gaien, or the outer precinct, which includes the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery and sports facilities; and the Meiji Memorial Hall.

The original Meiji Jingu was burnt down in air raids during the Second World War. The present shrine buildings date from November 1958. They consist of the Main Shrine, built in the Nagerezukuri style, together with Noritoden (where the words of praise the Emperor and Empress are recited), Naihaiden (the Inner Shrine), Gehaiden (the Outer Shrine), Shinko (the Treasure House), Shinsenjo (the Consecrated Kitchen for the preparation of the food offerings) and some office buildings. The materials are mainly plain Japanese cypress with copper plates for the roofs.

Otorii (the grand shrine gate) This is the biggest wooden Torii of the myojin style in Japan, rebuilt and dedicated by a pious benefactor on December 23, 1975 and modeled both in form and size exactly after the original built in 1920. The material wood used in Hinoki (cypress), from 1500 year old trees from Mount Tandai-san in Taiwan. height is 12 meters, diameter of each pillar 1.2 meters, length of crosspiece 17m, length of undercrosspiece 15.5m, distance between the two pillars 9.1 meters.

Special Prayers for Worshippers

In Kaguraden, the special kinds of prayers mentioned below are offered to the deities upon request from worshippers. On these occasions, Kaguramai (traditional ritual dance and music) are performed.

Hatsumiya Moude (The first visit paid by a newborn baby) A prayer for a new born babyfs healthy growth. This takes place around one month after the birth.

Yakuyoke (Driving the evil away) For a happy and prosperous life, Yakuyoke Prayers are offered for men who have reached the age of 25 or 42 and for women at the ages of 19 or 33.

Prayer for Safety on the Road (including the purification of vehicles) Prayers for safety on the road are offered as well as the purification of vehicles. Requests are received at the Kaguraden.

Besides these prayers, various kinds of prayers such as for the safety of a house, for the success and long prosperity of a business, for success in examinations, and for three , five or seven year-old children are offered upon request.

Ema, votive tablets for special personal prayers and gratitude toward the deities enshrined in Meiji Jingu Shrine are offered to you for 500 yen apiece. Hung around this divine tree with your wishes written on the reverse side, these ema aer offered at Mikesai, the morning ceremony held every day, and your supplications are conveyed by the priests.

Meiji Jingu Garden

Meiji Jingu Garden
Creek flowing in Tokyo
Meiji Jingu Garden is essentially a "stroll garden". The paths wind through strands of bamboo, and are carefully laid out to show off the flowers (azaleas, iris, roses, water lilies, wisteria etc) at their best. The clear water of the pond is also used to maximum effect, reflecting the greenery much like a mirror. Apart from the occasional noise from the nearby traffic, you would never believe you were in the heart of Tokyo. The garden is a sanctuary not only for residents and visitors looking for some peace and quiet, but also for birds. Apart from those living in the pond, many birds can be seen in the trees, especially during the nesting seasons.

The gardens are quite extensive, covering 8.3 hectares (approximately 20.5 acres). Both the grounds and gardens were originally part of a daimyo's yashiki (a mansion of a feudal lord) during the Edo Period. Meiji Jingu garden was originally owned by Kato Kiyomasa, whose perfectly positioned well continues to supply water to the garden and the pond to this day. After Kato Kiyomasa, the garden passed into the hands of the Ii family. Due in part to their history as retainers to the Tokugawa, and in part to their position during the days of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the head of the Ii family had substantial lands and privileges. In addition to these gardens, the Ii also owned the gardens that now form the foundation of the current "Japanese Garden" at the New Otani Hotel. Neither of these two Tokyo gardens are quite as brilliant as the Ii's Genkyuen garden adjoining their home castle in Hikone, but they are still amongst the best gardens remaining in Tokyo.

Meiji Jingu Garden
Minami-ike and the Otsuridai
In addition to serving as the feudal lords of Omi Province (present day Shiga Prefecture) the powerful Ii served on the council of ministers for the Tokugawa Shogunate. Heads of the Ii family were amongst the few eligible for the post of Tairo. As demonstrated in 1860 by the assassination of Ii Naosuke outside the Sakuradamon gate of Edo Castle, these responsibilities in the latter years of shogunate rule were not without risk. In 1868 when the Tokugawa Shogunate fell from power, the gardens were confiscated from the Ii to become part of the imperial estate and were named Yoyogi Gyoen (Yoyogi Imperial Garden).

Meiji Jingu Garden
Water flowing from the Kiyomasa-ido
Although located some distance west of the Imperial Palace, this garden was a favorite of the Emperor Meiji & his wife, the Empress Shoken, and that alone was the key reason why Meiji Jingu was built in its current location after the Emperor passed away. The garden's rural atmosphere is reflected in poems (waka) written by Meiji, and Shoken spent many afternoons in the garden, in fact the Otsuridai (fishing platform) at the pond was actually built for her. The original Kakuuntei (a tea house) and the Shobuda (Iris flowerbeds) were also added during that time.

Meiji Jingu Garden
Iris flower beds
The garden is worth visiting all year round since the seasonal variations ensure that it is different each visit. For example in the winter the garden is absolutely magical if there is snow, as it is usually both empty (of people) as well as beautiful. However the best time to visit is probably during June (rainy season) when the iris beds are a riot of color. The iris beds were put in around 1897, with 80 different species of iris planted. Although not as extensive as the iris flowers in say, Higashi Park in Okazaki, the best thing about the iris flowers in the Meiji Jingu garden is that instead of constrasting with the greenery of Okazaki, they are contrasting with the concrete, plastic and noise of bustling Harajuku and Omotosando just outside the gates.

When visiting the iris beds, walk first up the sloping path to the end of the garden. To this day, the iris beds are being watered by the steady stream gushing from the Kiyomasa-ido. This is one of the most historic wells in Tokyo. Sunk deep into the earth on the orders of Kato Kiyomasa, the waters spring from the ground without pumping. The water is sweet to taste (just help yourself), and perfectly safe unless the water flow is weak (as is sometimes the case if there has been little rain in Tokyo during the previous months). There are few wells in Tokyo that continue to provide such as good flow - an example of perfect positioning and clever sinking techniques. The iris beds and the main pond (Minami-ike or Nan-chi) hold the waters, and the waterlilies and the carp swimming in the pond are extremely healthy.

Meiji Jingu Garden
The Kakuuntei teahouse
Other points of interest in Meiji jingu garden are the Kakuuntei and the Otsuridai. The Kakuuntei (a tea house) was originally built on the order of Emperor Meiji in 1900. Unfortunately the building was destroyed (along with Meiji Jingu itself) during the terrible firebombings of 1945, and the current teahouse is an identical recontruction dating from 1958. The Otsuridai (fishing platform) was also built by Emperor Meiji, primarily for his wife (Empress Shoken) who enjoyed fishing in this pond. The Kakuuntei, Otsuridai and the iris beds are the main changes to the Kato/Ii garden of the Edo period, so you can see that very little has actually changed. Admission to Meiji Jingu garden is 500 yen per adult, 200 yen per child and the garden is open to the public year round.


Kaguraden (Hall of Shinto Music and Dance)

The construction of Kaguraden was started in 1990 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Meiji Jingu. Supported by many donations from worshippers, it was completed in October 1993. It follows a traditional architectural style, Irimoya-Nagarezukuri. It is a three-storey building, but only one floor is above the ground so as not to spoil the surrounding scenery; the other two floors are below ground level. The ground floor has a hall of 160 tatami and can seat 800. Upon request from worshippers, prayers are given here, offering Kaguramai and Bugaku (traditional dance and music) to the deities.

Treasure Museum

The Treasure Museum is a ferro-concrete building built in 1921. Its style, however, is a copy of the Ooyukazukuri (high floor style) of Azekurazukuri Shosoin (the Japanese National Treasure House in Nara). In the building, various articles used by the Imperial couple during their lifetimes are displayed. (Open to the public. Closed on the 3rd Friday of month)


Shiseikan is a training hall for traditional Japanese material arts. It was built in 1973 in order to assist people who wish to promote healthy moral education through training in the traditional material arts. Presently there are courses in Kyudo (Japanese archery), Judo, Kendo and Aikido. Besides these courses, lectures on Japanese material arts also given to both adults and the young.

The main entrance is adjacent to JR Yamanote Line's Harajuku Station and the Chiyoda subway line's Meiji Jingu station. A second entrance is a few minutes from JR Yamanote Line's and Oedo subway's Yoyogi Station. If you happen to be on the Odakyu line, there's a small entrance at Sangubashi Station. The main entrance on a Sunday is fun: you get to wade through all the local Goths posing. On the first, fourth and fifth (if any) Sundays of the month, there's a good flea-market at the nearby Togo Shrine, which was built to honour Admiral Togo, who defeated the Russian fleet at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Tours - Japan Discovery visits Meiji Jingu.
Click here for more information regarding when Discovery visits this destination.

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