Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine), in Tokyo near Harajuku Station, is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified souls of Emperor Meiji (d.1912) and Empress Shoken (d.1914). It is the most important and popular Shinto shrine in Tokyo, hosting many festivals and ceremonies.
History of Meiji Shrine
The first emperor of modern Japan, Emperor Meiji, was instrumental in opening Japan to the outside world. He became emperor in 1868, ushering in the Meiji Restoration that brought the rule of the Tokugawa government to an end. At the same time, the capital of Japan moved from Kyoto to Tokyo.
After the deaths of the emperor and empress, the Meiji Shrine was constructed to enshrine their souls. It was dedicated on November 1, 1920.
The shrine buildings burned down in 1945 during World War II, but were rebuilt by public donations. The spirits of the imperial couple were transferred to the new buildings in a ceremony on October 31, 1958.
What to See at Meiji Shrine
A peaceful oasis in the heart of modern Tokyo, Meiji Shrine is sheltered by a 700,000 square-meter forest of 120,000 evergreen trees, donated from all parts of Japan when the shrine was established.
The shrine consists of two large areas: the Inner Garden, with the main shrine buildings; and the Outer Garden, with sports arenas and the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery. The shrine grounds are entered through two of Japan's largest torii (shrine gates), made of beautiful cypress wood more than 1,700 years old.
If on foot, the best and most common approach to the Inner Garden is over the bridge by Harakuji Station, which allows a look at the famously strange fashions of local teenagers on the way. From here a wide graveled path leads through the forest to the great Ō-torii, the largest torii in Japan at 12 meters high. Just before the gate is the Treasure House Annex, where organized bus tours drop off visitors to the shrine.
Left of the torii is the entrance to the Jingū Naien (open daily 8.30am–5pm; ¥500), a beautiful garden said to have been designed by the emperor for his wife. In June, over 100 types of irises, the empress' favorite flower, are in full bloom.
Back on the gravel path, one soon passes under a second torii, the Kita-mon (north gate), and arrives at the shrine's honden (main hall), a harmonius construction of Japanese cypress wood topped with copper roofs.
Grouped around the main hall are the Noritoden (where prayers of praise for the Emperor and Empress are recited), Naihaiden (Inner Shrine), Gehaiden (Outer Shrine), Shinko (Treasure House), Shinsenjo (Consecrated Kitchen for the preparation of food offerings) and some office buildings. Next to these is a smaller building, the Kaguraden (Hall of Shinto Music and Dance) built in 1990-93.
The main attractions of the Outer Garden are the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery, a European-style building containing 40 paintings depicting the life of Emperor Meiji, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, a fascinating work of modern architecture based on the shape of a Samurai helmet.
Festivals and Events
Many weddings are held at Meiji Shrine, and folk dance performances occur regularly as well.
The biggest festival held at the shrine is Hatsu-mōde, the first visit to a shrine of the year on January 1. Between 2 and 3 million people crowd onto the grounds of Meiji Shrine, necessitating the use of traffic lights for crowd control!
Seijin-no-hi (Adults' Day) is held at Meiji Jingu on the second Monday in January. This is a day for 20-year-olds, who wear elaborate traditional dress to visit the shrine. The gravel path is lined with ice sculptures and there is a performance of traditional momoteshiki archery.
Shichi-go-san-no-hi (Seven-Five-Three Day), on November 15, sees children of ages three, five and seven wearing little kimonos to be celebrated at the shrine.
Quick Facts on Meiji Shrine
|Names:||明治神宮 · Meiji Jingu · Meiji Shrine|
|Dedication:||Souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken|
|Dates:||1920; rebuilt 1958|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||35.675984° N, 139.699413° E|
|Hours:||Daily sunrise-sunset (until 4:30pm in winter)|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Meiji Shrine|
- Meiji-jingū - Rough Guide to Tokyo
- Meijijingu - official website
- Meiji Jingu Shrine - Frommer's Tokyo
- Meiji Shrine - Japan-Guide.com
- Reviews of Meiji Shrine - TripAdvisor traveler reviews and photos
- Photos of Meiji Shrine - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Meiji Shrine, Tokyo
Below is a location map and aerial view of Meiji Shrine. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.