Meiji Jingu: The Largest Shinto Shrine in Tokyo

There are many shrines in Japan - but only a handful are called jingu(神宮). Meiji Jingu Shrine(明治神宮) is one of them, and enshrines Emperor Meiji(明治天皇) and his Empress Shōken(昭憲皇太后). Meiji Jingu Shrine is one of the great spots you cannot miss out on during your visit in Japan. 

In this article, we will introduce Meiji Jingu Shrine(明治神宮), the largest shinto shrine in Tokyo!

History of Meiji Jingu Shrine 

After the emperor's death in 1912, the Japanese Diet passed a resolution to commemorate his role in the Meiji Restoration. An iris garden in an area of Tokyo where Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken had been known to visit was chosen as the building's location.

Meiji Shrine in Tokyo is a popular place for traditional Japanese weddings

Construction began in 1915 under Itō Chūta(伊東 忠太), and the shrine was built in the traditional nagare-zukuri(流造) style, using primarily Japanese cypress and copper. The building of the shrine was a national project, mobilizing youth groups and other civic associations from throughout Japan, who contributed labor and funding. It was formally dedicated in 1920, completed in 1921, and its grounds officially finished by 1926. Until 1946, the Meiji Jingu Shrine was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha(官幣大社), meaning that it stood in the first rank of government supported shrines.

The original building was destroyed during the Tokyo air raids of World War II. The present iteration of the shrine was funded through a public fund raising effort and completed in October 1958.

Meiji Jingu Shrine has been visited by numerous foreign politicians, including United States President George W. Bush, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

Barrels of Sake Wrapped in Straw

During the Meiji Era(1858-1912), Emperor Meiji led the industrial growth and modernization of Japan by encouraging various industries and supporting technological development.

Due to their grace and virtue, Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken are held in the highest esteem by the Japanese People. These Sake barrels are offered every year to the enshrined deities by members of the Meiji Jingu Zenkoku Shuzo Keishinkai(明治神宮全国酒造敬神会: Meiji Jingu Shrine Nationwide Sake Brewers Association) including the Kotokai(甲東会), which has made offerings of sake for generations, as well as other sake brewers around Japan wishing to show their deep respect for the souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken. 

The forest

The huge surrounding forest was created in memory of the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken for their souls to dwell in and was planted entirely by hand. All 10,000 trees were donated to their memory from across Japan and the world, and was carefully planned to form an eternal forest. There are now more than 170,000 trees and it is hard to distinguish from a natural forest with dozens of different endangered species calling it home.

Meaning of the Torii(鳥居)

You can see many legendary Torii(鳥居) gate around Meiji Jingu Shrine. Torii is the gateway to a Shinto shrine. It consists of two upright posts connected at the top by two horizontal crosspieces. 

The function of a Torii is to mark the entrance to a sacred space. For this reason, the road leading to a Shinto shrine (参道: sandō) is almost always straddled by one or more Torii, which are therefore the easiest way to distinguish a shrine from a Buddhist temple. If the sandō passes under multiple Torii, the outer of them is called ichi no Torii (一の鳥居, first Torii). The following ones, closer to the shrine, are usually called, in order, ni no Torii (二の鳥居, second Torii) and san no Torii (三の鳥居, third Torii). Other Torii can be found farther into the shrine to represent increasing levels of holiness as one nears the inner sanctuary (本殿: honden), core of the shrine.

Access to Meiji Jingu Shrine

Map by Meiji Jingu Shrine Official Website

Access to shrine entrance by Meiji Jingu Shrine Official Website

Meiji Jingu Shrine (明治神宮)

Address: Meiji Jingu 1-1 Yoyogi-Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo  151-8857
Tel: +81-3-3379-5511
Opening Hours: Sunrise to Sunset - Differs each month, between 5am - 6.30pm
Entrance Fee: Free, Park and Museums have entry fees (500yen)
Home Page: http://www.meijijingu.or.jp/english/index.html

If you plan a trip to Shibuya(渋谷), Harajuku(原宿), or anywhere in the vicinity of the Yoyogi(代々木) area, be sure to make a trip to one of Japan’s most celebrated shrines right at the heart of Tokyo!

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Koki Miyashita

Author & Editor