Adjacent to the popular park in Tokyo known as Yoyogi Koen there is an amazingly beautiful Shinto shrine that is a rather popular sightseeing destination for both foreign and Japanese visitors. The shrine is a wonderful example of traditional Japanese architectural style and is also part of a truly pleasant natural oasis in the prime of Tokyo. This is the magnificent Japanese shrine known as Meiji Jingu.
The main gate to the shrine is one of the most iconic photo opportunities of traditional Japanese art in harmony with nature that is present in the Tokyo area and possibly even in the country of Japan. The traditional and massive wooden gate, in the style known as Torii, is primarily composed of two gorgeous and unpainted Japanese cypress tree trunks as it stands as a gateway bridging the city to the forest. The atmosphere is appropriately serene for most of the year and the forest is splendidly beautiful to enjoy. It is truly an amazing feeling to be in the midst of such a natural wonderland while simultaneously in the center of such a metropolis. The forest is seemingly dense enough to make the city miraculously disappear.
Meiji Jingu was constructed in homage to a Japanese leader and his wife. It is constructed in the area where they often enjoyed a visit to a flower garden together. Meiji was a mid 19th century leader of Japan who was a proponent of modernization. Meiji was also the first modern imperial leader of Japan and arguably the first man to be a leader of the entire country of Japan running as a singular government. Prior to the late 1800’s Japan had a rather unique feudal system of government involving many smaller localized Samurai clan governments, managed by a centralized Samurai Shogun, which occasionally battled for domination. Whichever dominated would be essentially “given” approval by the imperial family to run things. This approval was a way for the imperial family to feign some kind of involvement in the process and for the Shogun to gain notoriety. It also gave the illusion of some sort of national stability. The imperial family was more a tool of these Shogun dictatorships than an actual governing family like European royalty.
At a time when Japan was just being opened to international relations and trade for the first time in hundreds of years, the imperial family and its supporters decided to claim political control of the country. After convincing the primary Shogunate of the country that it was best to step down and allow the imperial family to take over, a series of events referred to as the “Meiji Restoration” took place. This included a new and rather controversial nationalistic constitution which made the imperial family self-appointed divine heirs to the throne of Japan. Japan came out of the feudal government and entered the industrial age with a newly fabricated classical Western monarchy and a newly invented national identity. Imported military technology and imported royal politics were adopted and customized to create a new and patriotic national pride which eventually led to the events of WWII.
While such a shrine would certainly not have been acceptable to build after the events of WWII, it is still a pleasant place to visit and one can hardly notice anything but natural and traditional beauty on most of the shrine grounds. Enjoy Meiji shrine.