meiji

Meiji Shrine

Dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken, who was his consort, Meiji Shrine is one of the most popular Shinto shrines in Japan. It has more visitors during the New Year period than any other shrine in the country. Meiji Shrine was originally completed in 1920, but was destroyed in World War Two and rebuilt with public donations thereafter. The shrine sits adjacent to the spacious Yoyogi Park, behind Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote line.

The Emperor Meiji, also known as Meiji the Great, was the first modern Japanese emperor. His ascension in 1868 re-established imperial rule in Japan and brought the government of the Tokugawa shogunate to a close. During Emperor Meiji’s reign, Japan underwent a period of rapid westernization, emerging as a modern nation by the time of his death in 1912.

A large torii (shrine) gate marks the entrance to the grounds, and the main complex sits within a surrounding forest of nearly 100,000 trees. These come from regions all over Japan, and were specially planted at the time of the shrine’s construction. The atmosphere is extraordinarily tranquil, despite close proximity to the city. Adults’ Day (the second Monday in January) and Seven-Five-Three Day (November 15) are both celebrated at Meiji Shrine. It’s also not uncommon to witness traditional Shinto weddings taking place throughout the year.

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Visitors are welcome to partake in a number of Shinto activities, including making an offering in the main hall area and writing wishes on an ema (special wooden plate), which is then left behind at the shrine. Amulets and charms are also available for purchase. New Year is the busiest time of all for the shrine, when it welcomes over three million visitors for hatsumode (first prayers of the year). To the east of the main shrine buildings is the Museum Annex Building, which hosts a number of exhibitions throughout the year.

The Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine) Treasure House is located at the northern side of the grounds. It was built a year after the shrine opened, and houses personal effects of Emperor Meiji and his consort, the Empress Shoken. It even displays the carriage in which the Emperor Meiji travelled during his historic ride to the Meiji constitution’s formal declaration in 1889. There is a moderate amount of information available in English, both at the Treasure House and Museum Annex.

At the opposite end of the shrine grounds, towards the south, you will find Meiji shrine’s Inner Garden, which has a separate admission fee. It is at its most striking towards the middle of summer, when the irises are blooming. The inner garden is also home to Kiyomasa’s Well, named for the feudal warlord who constructed it during the early 17th century. Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken frequently visited Kiyomasa’s Well during their lifetimes. Because of this connection with the past, the well has become something of a pilgrimage spot for many people.

Getting to Meiji Shrine
Meiji Shrine is easily accessible from Meiji-jingu-mae station on the Fukutoshin and Chiyoda subway lines, and Harajuku station on the JR Yamanote line.

Opening Hours/Admission Fees
Meiji Shrine
Open between sunrise and sunset.
Free Admission

Treasure House
Open on weekends and selected public holidays between 9:00 and 16:30 (Closes at 16:00 between November and February)
Admission: 500 yen (Combined ticket for Treasure House and Museum Annex)

Museum Annex
Open between 9:00 and 16:30 (Closes at 16:00 between November and February)
Admission: 500 yen (Combined ticket for Treasure House and Museum Annex)

Inner Garden
Open between 9:00 and 16:00 (Open until 16:30 between March and October)
Extended hours in mid-June
Admission: 500 yen

Accommodation
There are plenty of hotels available in the surrounding area. Shibuya has a number of good quality options, including the Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu. (The Tokyu corporation own and operate several hotels in the city, in addition to department stores).

Before booking your stay you should definitely check out the page on Tokyo Hotels.