Tokyo ’13 Photo-diary, Part 5: Meiji Jingu
There is something magical about Meiji Jingu/Shrine. Not in an in-your-face, starburst-of-dazzling-enchantment way, but with a subtle yet almost powerful aura that surrounds the place, and you. As you walk into the expanse of forest surrounding the shrine grounds and buildings on a wide (4 lane traffic road wide!), gravel path and under the torii/traditional gates, the sounds of the bustling city streets are completely erased. The rustling of leaves in the diverse and towering trees, sunlight touching your skin between patches of shaded sky, the fresh smell of forest, the crunching of gravel and cheery murmurs of fellow visitors .. all of these sensory inputs calm and make you feel as though you are a world away. It’s hard to believe that the energetic and chameleon heart of Harajuku is just a minute away, and easy to imagine that you are in a forest of Miyazaki‘s drawings, with Totoro and San (Princess Mononoke) peacefully watching by.
I’d unwittingly come to Meiji Jingu for the first time on New Years Day in 2010, which only means one thing: hatsumoude/new year shrine visit, which also means thousands of people flocking there with you! The whole path was packed right up to the main shrine, and people of all ages trudged at a glacial pace, but it was an incredible, wonderful experience. The feeling of profound tranquility hasn’t changed since then and now. If you’re lucky or plan ahead, you can see Shinto ceremonies being performed, and sight a priest or miko/shrine maidens. They also add another dimension of unreal reality.. they are real people and that is their daily life, they’re not wearing costumes like Disneyland workers and not anime characters either.
You could spend a whole day exploring the shrine grounds and the forest paths, but I would definitely recommend for you to give yourself at least a couple of hours to stroll in and out of the central sanctuary and, if you like, write on an ema/wooden wish tablet and purchase various omamori/talismans. You can then move onto Yoyogi Koen/Park or to Takeshita Dori/Street which are right next door.