Wednesday, February 8, 2012

visiting japan : tokyo 2, meiji jingu shrine

Intro about our visit to Japan
Tokyo 1, Tsukiji Market
Tokyo 2, Ginza + Ueno Park

Bright and early on day two we stopped by the observation deck in the Metropolitan tower. It was a beautiful way to see Tokyo from above and really be overwhelmed (in a good way) by how huge the city is. When we were researching Tokyo we read that the city is essentially three Manhattan, NY's squished together. So kind of big. It was a little cloudy so we were not able to get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji - but still a fantastic view.
In the photo you can see Yoyoji Park that we headed to next. We took the train to Harajuku station and went directly into the park to head to the Meiji Jingu Shrine.
Under the immense wood torii gate at the entrance to the park.
Offerings in the park.
We arrived at the Meiji Jingu Shinto Shrine inside the park and encountered so many beautiful traditions and details. After the emperor and empress died in 1912 and 1914, people honored them by donating 100,000 trees from all over the world to create the forest. The Shrine was established in 1920.
Seeing the shrines and temples in Japan was one of my favorite parts of our trip. I grew up in a Christian home. Visiting Europe you see church after church and they're all beautiful - but also familiar in the sense that you know the traditions, the stories, the symbols etc. Visiting the shrines and temples was the opposite - I had some knowledge of Buddhism but very little understanding of Shinto. It was fascinating to watch and learn. We had read that many of the traditions at shrines are signs of respect that everyone should do regardless of your religion.
As you approach a shrine there is a temizuya - water with small bamboo ladle-esque dippers that you use to rinse your hands and mouth. We watched many, many people do this at the first shrine before trying it ourselves to make sure we had it right. At the main shrine we watched as people would step up the the shrine, put some coins in the box, step back and bow, then clap their hands twice and bow again. It was very quiet and peaceful.
There were lots of families at the shrine with children dressed up in traditional Japanese attire being photographed. So basically the cutest thing ever.
We were lucky enough to arrive just as a wedding procession walked through.
We left the beautiful park to go to Harajuku, stay tuned...

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