It was the last day of my one-month trip to Japan, and my last sightseeing trip with my fiance before I headed back to the states was to Meiji Shrine 明治神宮 in Shibuya, Tokyo.
My one-month trip was coming to an end, and I would be heading back to the US to finish up my graduate studies and earn my Master’s degree. My fiance would be staying in Japan for the time being, so we went for one last outing before I left the next day.
Meiji Shrine / 明治神宮
The previous day had been rainy, so after a day of shopping we took some time to relax and warm up in a Japanese love hotel. But Wednesday was sunny and I wanted to visit Meiji Jingu or Meiji Shrine 明治神宮 in the Shibuya ward 渋谷区 of Tokyo.
Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the Emperor Meiji (1852-1912) and his consort Empress Shoken. The shrine was a national project, completed on November 1, 1920, with over 100,000 trees from all over Japan and overseas donated by the Japanese people to build the shrine.
Part of the reason for our visit was for our first New Year’s shrine visit. Because of the death of my fiance’s close relative, we had visited a Buddhist temple on the New Year rather than the traditional Shinto shrine.
The shrine is just outside of the JR Yamanote Line’s Harajuku Station, and just down the street from Takeshita Dori or Takeshita Street, which is a street packed with boutiques and cafes and is most often associated with the range of Japan’s trendiest fashion, from lolita to pastel to fairy kei.
On the road to the shrine proper, we stopped at the purification fountain or temizuya 手水舎, where we rinsed our hands with ladles that we filled with water. We poured some of the ladled water into our cupped hands and rinsed our mouths out with the water. Then, we spit the water out discreetly to the side of the fountain (and not on anyone’s shoes!).
There were several girls in beautiful kimono with fur trim for Coming of Age Day or Seijin no Hi 成人の日 (although the actual holiday was on January 12th). Those who will turn 20 during a particular year will celebrate Coming of Age Day in January of that year. Usually you can find groups of friends who gather to celebrate this day, and the girls are most commonly dressed in vibrant kimono with fur trim, while boys will wear suits or, less commonly, dark kimono with hakama (pants).
Once we had completed the purification that is typical at shrines, we went to stand in one of the long lines for the shrine. Once we reached the main shrine building, we each threw a 5 yen coin into the offering box, bowed twice, clapped our hands twice, offered our wish or prayer, and then bowed. (If you aren’t certain how to proceed, there are instructions in Japanese and English at the offering box area).
We also ate the obligatory shrine food (mitarashi dango and yakitori), and visited the shrine gift shop.
Sumo at the Shrine
Meiji Jingu is huge, and its close proximity with a busy train station means that it’s often very crowded. This day seemed particularly crowded, especially for a Wednesday. As I soon found out, there was a very big reason for this. It was the Yokozuna Dezuiri 横綱でず入り, or Ring-Entering Ritual for sumo wrestlers. In 1922, Onishiki, a yokozuna (sumo grand champion), is credited with the first Yokozuna Dezuiri at Meiji Jingu. The yokozuna wear ornamental sumo aprons and present themselves in the front of the shrine, along with the sumo wrestlers in the top three ranks or above and sumo officials. There is also an autumn Yokozuna Dezuiri in the autumn at Meiji Jingu.
There were 3 yokozuna (that’s champions) – Hakuho, Kakuryu, and Harumafuji. It was quite amazing to watch these larger-than-life athletes stride through the massive gates at which we had just stood. It was difficult to see the entrance ceremony because people had gathered and staked out a place to watch the entry for at least a couple of hours. I did find a pretty awesome video on YouTube (which you can view here) but I wasn’t able to get a good view from the back of the crowd.
Next we headed to the Tokyo Imperial Palace or Kokyu 皇居, but this post is already pretty long, so I will write about that part of the day next time! Stay tuned!
Have you visited Meiji Shrine or seen a sumo match? What other places have you visited in Harajuku or Shibuya? Let me know in the comments!