Frozen moments from the infinity that is time

Meiji Jingu Shrine


A short walk from Harajuku Station, one passes through a magnificent Torii gate (pics 1 and 2) marking the entrance to the Meiji Jingu Shrine – Tokyo’s most significant Shinto shrine. Flanked by impressive Cypress Pines, one then enjoys a pleasant walk crossing a small stream via an arched pedestrian bridge (pic 3) and passing through two more large torii on the way to the main shrine complex (pic 4) cocooned within a forested area of 175 acres.

By this time the concrete, steel and glass environs of the Tokyo metropolis is out of mind and mostly out of sight. One’s attention is drawn to the classic form and the elemental materials used in the construction of the main shrine building (pic 5), arguably enhanced by the appearance through the misty rain of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office building in nearby Shinjuku. This is a leviathan of a building, yet the old and new form symmetry so often found in Japan.

Meiji Jingu was established in 1920 to deify the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. During the Meiji era of 1868 to 1912, the modern Japan was born, with a focus on building international relationships and improving the prosperity and peace of the nation. Whilst it is somewhat natural to think of this period in terms of modernization and westernization, it is worth remembering that Empress Shoken is recognised as the model of the modern Japanese woman.

Sadly the original shrine building was destroyed by allied bombings in 1945, with rebuilding completed in 1958, largely through public donations, with such support demonstrating the importance of Meiji Jingu to the Japanese people.

For non-Japanese it can be difficult to gain an appreciation of shrines, especially compared to Japanese temples where the buildings and grounds are often more inviting, though it must be said that shrines are often found within temple complexes. In my experience, shrines are best appreciated during ceremonies or periods such as in early January when people flock to Meiji Jingu to worship and buy good-luck charms for the year ahead. As in all cultures, ceremony and the associated emotions speak their own language.

The accompanying photographs were taken around the main shrine building at different times on dry and rainy days. Those who have visited Japan will be familiar with the Ema Plaques (pic 10); small wooden tablets that can be purchased at most shrines and left hanging with one’s prayers or wishes. I have also taken the opportunity to share a few more shots of a Shinto Wedding party (pics 12 to 14) taken on an unfortunately wet day. However, the weather did not detract from their spirits and as can be seen from pics 15 and 16, all one needs is a good umbrella.

In conclusion, there is a question I cannot resist posing. Meiji Jingu is one of several large forested parks one finds around Tokyo that provide welcome respite and serve as green lungs within the metropolis. One wonders if today’s city planners around the world would be generous enough and brave enough to deny developers’ pressures to create similar green lungs.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

Author: johnliddlephotography

Photography reflects how I see the world around me. I respond to images that interest me, which can be anything ... people, places, colour, texture ... anything at all. By sharing my photos through this blog I know that viewers will see based on their life experiences. That is the wonder of photography ... one image ... many interpretations.

8 thoughts on “Meiji Jingu Shrine

  1. Great photos as always, John!
    Meiji Jingu is such an important corner of Tokyo today that it’s hard to believe it’s not even 100 years old yet! The forest feels and looks like it’s been there for centuries! The huge parks around Tokyo are one of the reasons I love this city 🙂

    • Thanks Celia,
      I think the Meiji Jingu site was an existing garden, then they planted another 100,000 trees. I totally understand your love of Tokyo’s parks and it would be hard to imagine the city without them. Thanks also for your insights on my question about the stone piles – they are always great contributions to walks in Japan.

  2. I really love the photos and the story 🙂 I really hope to have a chance to go to Japan to see the culture and people myself.
    Greetings from Vietnam


  3. Beautiful pictures, John! I especially loved the one of the Lantern and the Wedding pic 2!
    I hope to visit the shrine some day… you definitely made me want to do it! 🙂

    • Thanks Raveca,
      It’s definitely worth a visit, especially on weekends where you will most likely see wedding parties. Then for a cultural contrast you can go next door to Yoyogi Park and enjoy the Harajuku Lebels dancing around. Cheers …

  4. Beautiful, as always.
    There are quite a number of fave images (the majestic torii, contrast of people in old and new and the wedding shots, the first couple of inner views and the inviting warmth of the lantern) but as you would know, the one that takes the cake here would be the most ethereal (at least to me) of these captures namely, the bridge over the stream captured within such an enchanting frame of a canopy. Brilliant!

    As always, I do love the palpable warmth in your style of travel writing as well as the thoughtfulness that underlies the post itself.

    Indeed, the world would be a much better and more beautiful place (for a longer time) if every city chose to honour the value of living in the midst of green spaces, if not grandly beautiful trees as these.
    Do take good care, too

  5. Thanks B,
    For your kind comments and it is always nice when a photo provides pleasure. In many respects the bridge is quite a nondescript part of the approach to the shrine, yet the symmetry of the natural elements and the lovely filtered light through the trees lifted the scene tremendously. Could not agree more about green spaces, which is something Tokyo does well. Take care.

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