OWL Magazine Korea

Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

In various parts of Japan, influenced by Shinto believers’ local faith (Shinto), you can find “shrines.” At these shrines, you’ll often see columns resembling gates called “torii,” which have become a symbol of Japan. In the heart of Tokyo, even, you can discover a grand shrine named “Meiji Shrine.”

For a Korean visitor, visiting shrines in Japan may not be entirely pleasant due to places like Yasukuni Shrine, where war criminals are enshrined as deities. Unaware of this, visiting a shrine with peculiar deities could turn an experience less delightful. However, Meiji Shrine is a well-known Tokyo tourist spot, so I decided to explore it.

“Through Shibuya to Meiji Shrine…”

After a late lunch in Ebisu, I headed to Shibuya. Although I didn’t engage in shopping around Shibuya, feeling somewhat uninspired, I stumbled upon “Meiji Shrine” nearby, prompting a visit.

Meiji Shrine is located close to Harajuku Station, just one stop from Shibuya, making it a leisurely walk. The weather was favorable, making the walk enjoyable, but it took more time than anticipated, resulting in some time wasted.

“Meiji Denno Sleeping in Meiji Shrine”

Meiji Shrine can be found behind Harajuku Station. The entrance was easy to locate, and passing through the torii gates led into Meiji Shrine.

This shrine is related to the Meiji Restoration, a significant event that led Japan towards modernization. In Meiji Shrine lies the resting place of Emperor Meiji, who played a crucial role during the Meiji Restoration. Emperor Meiji passed away on July 30, 1912, and Empress Shoken passed away on April 11, 1914. Subsequently, Meiji Shrine was constructed on the site, and on November 1, 1920, a solemn ceremony was held to enshrine Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.

However, most of the buildings were destroyed in an air raid by the U.S. military on April 14, 1945, just before Japan’s defeat in World War II. Reconstruction efforts started after the war, and the shrine was reconstructed and consecrated on November 1958.

“Denno of the Era That Unlawfully Ruled Korea’s Resting Place”

Examining the historical timeline revealed that Emperor Meiji, who once ruled Japan during the period of Korea’s unlawful occupation, was associated with “Meiji.” Personally, knowing this fact dampened my mood during the visit. Despite being a nearby tourist attraction, learning this information made the experience less enjoyable, and my mood remained somber throughout the day.

“Sake Barrels and Wine Casks in Meiji Shrine”

On the path leading into the shrine, you’ll encounter barrels filled with sake and casks brimming with wine. On the left side, you find wine casks, while on the right, sake casks are displayed. The wine casks have simple designs, while the sake casks bear unique patterns, providing visual interest.

These sake barrels are donated by various brewing companies for shrine events, while the wine casks were acquired from overseas to commemorate Emperor Meiji, who was known to appreciate wine. All the barrels here are over a century old, but they are currently empty.

“Ema in Meiji Shrine”

As with many shrines in Japan, Meiji Shrine features “ema.” Ema refers to small wooden plaques where visitors write their wishes and leave them at the shrine. Originally, wishes were written on horse-shaped plaques, and as an offering, worshippers were required to dedicate a horse to the deity. However, as offering real horses became impractical, the tradition evolved into writing wishes on various wooden plaques, which are now left at the shrine.

While this particular shrine may not be a cheerful place for a Korean visitor due to its association with an era of unlawful rule over Korea, it could be a more neutral or even positive experience for other foreign visitors.

“Meiji Shrine in Harajuku, Tokyo”

  • Address: 1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo 151-8557, Japan
  • Phone: +81 3-3379-5511
  • Opening Hours: 6:20 – 16:50
  • Website: http://www.meijijingu.or.jp