What was supposed to be a fun shopping day in Harajuku with my two Kiwi roommates, Jenny and Eva, quickly turned into a cultural visit to Meiji Jingū, a Shinto shrine. I really did mean to wander through the maze of lanes and shops in Harajuku with them, but after a quick lunch we split up to look at things and I just never made it back to them.
As I followed the crowds of people (all of whom were not as crazily dressed as I had imagined) through the back alleyways, I soon found myself at Omotesandō, one of the major shopping streets in the area. There were flagship stores for many international brands, all of which were definitely out of my price range. However, happy to just window shop, I carried on by myself and was surprised when I approached an entrance to Meiji Jingu. Since I’d made it this far, I figured it was a sight to see so I continued on.
Meiji Jingū is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken in 1920. Shinto is the indigenous belief system of Japan that focuses on the relationship between humans, nature and the world. Kami, gods or spiritual essences, are found all around in various forms, such as man, animals or nature.
Emperor Meiji, the 122nd emperor of Japan who ascended to the throne in 1867, is the great-grandfather of the current emperor. He promoted friendship with other countries and introduced western civilization and technology from overseas when Japan first opened country and Tokugawa shogunate ended. His wife, Empress Shoken, supported women’s education and national welfare as well as established an International Red Cross fund in her name. The couple were loved so much that volunteers planted a forest of 100,000 trees from all over Japan and abroad to surround the shrine.