While unwinding in Tokyo, Jeff and I visited the Meiji Shrine and Gardens. The shrine was built in honor of a late empress, and it’s situated in a large forest park. According to the shrine’s informational signs, the park was built by volunteers, and the forest was planted with trees from all over the world. The shrine was a Shinto shrine, a native Japanese religion.
Before entering the shrine, there were several gigantic gates like this. Some had pillars that were perhaps three feet in diameter, made from single tree trunks!
Along the entrance path to the shrine were these barrels of sake, donated to the shrine.
Before entering the shrine, Shinto worshipers will wash from these fountains.
All over the grounds there were gigantic old trees. Under this tree, which was living in the central courtyard of the temple, were small prayers written by visitors and tied to the fence surrounding the tree.
One of my favorite things about old buildings in Japan is that the roofs were often made of copper, which has now turned a brilliant green.
Traditional Japanese architecture looks very similar to traditional Chinese architecture — at least to an unschooled observer like myself. The Chinese buildings tend to have much brighter and more complex color schemes, while the Japanese favor simpler designs and earth tones, however.
Even more enjoyable than the shrine itself was the forest park it was situated in. The park had many small paths through manicured gardens and coy ponds.
We spent quite a long time communing with the large coy and variety of gigantic turtles at the ponds. The coy were about two feet long, and some of the turtles rivaled them in size as well! All were very keen to be fed, but alas, we had nothing to offer but company.
I got to search for bugs and play with the macro setting — also known as the “flower setting” among us Kelly-Sneeds.
We discovered these weird flat worms. They’re about half a centimeter wide and twenty centimeters long, with flat bodies and hammerheads.
Everything was covered in moss and mushrooms, in the most pleasing way possible!
The Meiji Shrine is right next to Harajuku, which is home to the height of Japanese street fashion. One of the really neat things about Japan is that it seems to effortlessly blend tradition with innovation. There couldn’t be two places more different than Harajuku and the shrine, but it felt natural to go between the two. We didn’t see too many outfits — just the usual schoolgirls and petticoated dolls during the day — but we did do some window shopping at thrift stores.
Harajuku also has a strip of large malls and top brands, with H&M, Forever 21, Lacoste…etc.