Tokyo, Japan is one of my favorite cities to visit in the world. Visitors often describe Tokyo using words like “vibrant”, “active”, “ultra-modern”, “crowded”, and so on. However, because the city is on the go around the clock, “tranquil” is a word I never thought of to describe it. However, my first visit to the Meiji Jingu Shrine showed me a place where this description is very apt.
History and Symbolism…
Traditional torii gate at the entrance to Meiji Shrine
The shrine, completed in 1921, was erected to honor the spirit of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. The shrine and its gardens and grounds are located on the western edge of Tokyo in the Shibuya neighborhood. Because it is a Shinto shrine, giant torii gates stand over the entrances. Torii gates symbolize the transition from the outside, profane world into the inner, sacred world of a shrine. In this case, the transition is profound. Giant trees and plants line the pathways inside the grounds, surrounding you with nature. Visitors typically enter the shrine complex with quiet reverence for the spirits that are honored there.
An oasis of quiet…
The grounds of the shrine offer many places for visitors to sit and relax and to contemplate. Although the hustle and bustle of Tokyo surrounds the park, the trees and landscaping help deaden the noise. This creates an atmosphere that’s perfect for quiet contemplation and relaxation. Those wishing to honor the traditions and rituals of the Shinto religion may offer up prayers to the spirits of the Emperor and Empress.
A place of tradition…
Many Japanese visitors to the shrine dress up in traditional clothing when visiting. This is especially common among young girls, who wear beautiful kimono. Young boys often wear suits or tuxedos as well. It’s also quite common to see engaged or newly-married couples posing in the park for wedding photos.
Because the shrine represents a sacred place in Shinto and Japanese culture, visitors should be aware of the rules of etiquette that are expected in the park.
Bride and groom in traditional wedding attire
A young girl in a traditional kimono
Staging a photo in traditional kimono
The Meiji Shrine is by no means the only spot for peace and tranquility in Tokyo – my fellow travel bloggers Nic and Paul wrote a great post about the the beautiful temples and shrines of Tokyo that you should read if you’re headed there soon.
The shrine is generally open from sunrise to sunset. Official opening hours vary from month to month, so it’s best to verify the hours ahead of time. On the night of December 31st, the shrine is open all night.
Nice post, I am hoping to visit Japan soon so will be sure to check this out. Love the etiquette link, will be helpful! Happy travels.
Thanks for the kind words, Matt! Glad you found it helpful.
Japan has always been on my bucket list.
Really love their culture and traditions. Thanks for this wonderful post.
Glad you liked the article, thank you for the kind words! It’s an amazing place to visit.
Tokyo was the first Asian city I visited. Tranquil was not one of the words I would have used to describe it, but I do remember one peaceful moment. I was wondering around the city on foot and came across a small lake. I still don’t remember the name, but I felt really relaxed there.
Brian thanks for the comment! The city planners of Tokyo seem to do a really good job of having small lakes, parks, etc., around the city to provide respite from the noise and the chaos. Ueno Park is another one of my favorites – I may write about that soon as well.
The shrine indeed presents a different perspective of Tokyo. A different face of the modern, vibrant and high tech city always on the move. The temple is so serene and calm, an oasis in the midst of the Urban city.
Oh my gosh, you’re so right! Tokyo is such a city of contrasts – frantic pace but space to relax and contemplate, ultra-modern technology and ancient tradition, etc., etc. Glad to hear someone else loves this shrine as much as I do.
Such a gorgeous city – it makes me happy knowing you can find peace in such a buzzling metropolis; those corners of cities always feel special!!
Yeah, I think these peaceful places make a lot of people happy, especially in Tokyo!