We had about half of a day to explore Tokyo on Friday before having to take the train back to Narita Airport, so we decided to stay in the Shibuya area and try to knock out some main tourist-y things and do some shopping. The Disney magic had most definitely worn off, and we were back to being hyper-aware of Henry’s breathing, Chooch’s mouthiness, and my constant (THOUGH ADORABLE) whining.
You would think the serenity of the Meiji Shrine would have helped us BUT YOU WOULD BE WRONG.
Actually, everything was fine that morning until I tried to get Chooch to pose for a picture under the Torii Gate (aka the entrance to Meiji Shrine) but he got all Surly Teenage Boy on me and tried to move away so I got SUPER BUTT HURT ABOUT THIS and decided in that moment that I was now going to make sure everyone had a really shitty day because that is the matriarchal leadership type I adopt in my household, bitches!
No, seriously, it was a fine day.
The Meiji Shrine is tucked away right in the city and once you enter, you feel like you’re hundreds of miles away in the forest. It’s so peaceful and tranquil (although I can imagine it’s the exact opposite on busy days!), and even though it was still overwhelmingly humid, it still offered a bit of a reprieve from the blazing sun and sizzling pavement.
Once you pass through the entrance gates, there is still quite a bit of a walk ahead before you reach the shrine’s Main Hall, but it is such a beautiful stroll. Being there made me REALLY CONSCIOUS of the fact that holy shit, we were in Japan.
I loved this display of sake barrels!
Chooch put on his fake nice face when these girls asked him to take their picture. And that’s not litter on the ground – Chooch set his water bottle there while he was playing amateur photog.
Those are barrels of wine behind them.
Before reaching the main shrine building, we passed through a courtyard that offered informational brochures and an AMULET OFFICE (!!!) where omamori of all different varieties can be purchased to bring you good luck, health, etc. Of course Henry wouldn’t let me buy any because he doesn’t believe in anything other than what he was taught IN THE SERVICE and from watching NCIS.
Also in the courtyard was a temizuya, which is a water ablution pavilion found at the entrances of Shinto shrines. The first one we came upon had a small tour group gathered around while their guide illustrated the cleansing ritual. I wanted to do it but for some reason, I got all fucking weird and was convinced that I was going to do it wrong and become haunted by a Japanese spirit for the rest of my life, so I didn’t do it.
From the shrine’s website:
This shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken (their tombs are in Kyoto).
Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912 and Empress Shoken in 1914. After their demise, people wished to commemorate their virtues and to venerate them forever. So they donated 100,000 trees from all over Japan and from overseas, and they worked voluntarily to create this forest. Thus, thanks to the sincere heart of the people, this shrine was established on November 1, 1920.
100,000 trees! I love that they were donated. It gives it such a heart-warming (not that the heart needed much help warming up on that day), collaborative vibe.
I also learned that this type of shrine is a “Shinto” shrine. Shinto is Japanese religion dating from the early 8th century. It focuses on ritual practices that establish a connection between present-day Japan and the past, and followers of this religion have a belief in sacred power (called kami) in both animate and inanimate things.
Sooooo much more appealing than Catholicism!
This is the main shrine building. Those trees! I was obsessed with them. They look like they’re straight out of Dr. Seuss’s dreams.
Photos and videos inside of it are prohibited so I took this one from a safe distance away. I have this fear of being That American Tourist who overlooks a sign and gets hollered at (lol) by some white-gloved UNESCO cop. I might be a dick on the inside, but I do try to have as much respect as I can humanly muster when I’m being a tourist!
Chooch and I observed the elderly Japanese people around us who came to pay respects to the emperor, and then I saw a sign with instructions so Chooch and I followed along as seriously as possible because there’s nothing worse than a couple of foreigners who appear to be mocking another culture simply because they didn’t read the directions closely enough!
1. You may put some coins into the offertory box.
2. Bow twice.
3. Clap your hands twice.
4. You may make a wish if you like.
5. Bow once again.
We made Henry give us some coins and then we moved on to the bowing and clapping portion, though we didn’t do it as robustly as the men around us, but they seemed like seasoned pros at this and we were just a couple of n00bs, fresh from DisneySea.
Still, I felt a sense of….I dunno, purity? after moving through the steps.
In this area, you could write your prayer on an “ema,” which is a wooden tablet that can be purchased at the AMULET OFFICE.
There was another, less-populated courtyard off to the side of the main shrine building, and this also had one of those water cleansing things. This time, I felt less under a spotlight, so I partook in the water-pouring ritual, but I was still very stressed that I was doing it wrong and then I almost drowned myself on nothing more than a small palmful of water. It got up my nose and everything. I’m a true mess.
I mean, the steps really aren’t outrageous but Henry still had to read them to me over and over.
“Rinse your left hand…your left hand. LEFT. Your LEFT HAND. THAT ONE,” is basically how that went.
2. Rinse your right hand.
3. Pour water into your left hand.
4. Rinse your mouth.
5. Rinse your left hand again.
6. Rinse the dipper (allow the remaining water to run down the handle of the dipper).
Then Henry did it too and of course this was a majorly bonding moment for Chooch and me because we were born to scrutinize Henry’s every move.
“I DIDN’T DO IT WRONG,” is what he was saying here after Chooch and I launched into our celestial chorus of “YOU ARE SO EMBARRASSING.”
After an hour lost inside this forest in the middle of Tokyo, we started to make our way out but not before going into the GIFT SHOP so I could, god forbid, buy a magnet. We also bought some tins of traditional-y candy which Henry insisted on keeping in his man-purse so we had to continuously ask him for one, which was really frustrating and I had forgotten about that until just now so now I’m annoyed.
On that note, more Japan memories to come!