Tokyo’s Meji Shrine is not that far from the Gyoen’s (The National Garden in Shinjuku), Sendegaya gate, but heavy rain might hamper your ability to navigate there correctly on foot. It will be particularly difficult if you’re holding a tiny Japanese umbrella over two people, and trying to navigate using your smartphone’s apps at the same time.
You have had fair warning.
9:00 am: We had begun the day at the Gyoen National Garden, a photographer’s dream, well before any rain started.
If you want to know more about visiting that spectacular Garden, click here.
We worked out that taking a wrong turn isn’t always a bad thing, in Japan. Some of the streets are really quite interesting and surprisingly devoid of traffic. Which is really unexpected, in a city of 38 million people.
1pm: After the wrong turn or two, we spotted the enormous Torii gate which signals the entrance to the Meji shrine. Having advanced knowledge that the Shinto shrine is located well inside Yoyogi Park, and given it was raining heavily, we looked for temporary cover before entering in the hopes the rain would abate.
Our vain attempt to shelter under the eave of the guard’s box at the entrance was met with howls of protest from the guard himself, that I interpreted as, “No standing here, – you must keep moving.”
And move we did, passing through the Torii gate and taking the long, now dismal, walk up to Meji. This is normally a pleasant ten minute stroll through Yoyogi park when the sun is shining, but can be a miserably cold trot if it is teeming with rain, and it was teeming with rain.
Despite the inclement weather, I noted that the gardeners was highly focused on the task at hand, which was commendable, but I pondered if it might have been a religious penance of sorts to continue sweeping the leaves with a primitive straw broom amidst a torrential downpour?
In any case, I admired his resilience and fearless immunity to discomfort, despite the heavens opening up. No down time for outdoor workers in rainy Japan, it seems. And we complain about poor working conditions here…. gulp.
The Meji Shrine, itself, dates from 1920 and being a Shinto shrine it is considered the resting place of the souls, but not the earthly remains, of Emperor Meiji, and his empress.
The Meji period marked the beginning of Modern Japan, transitioning as it did, from a feudal power to centralized control under the Emperor, and therefore this shrine is significant, in Japanese history.
It is also worth mentioning the surrounding Yoyogi park contains over 100,000 trees that originated from donations from throughout the whole of Japan.
We were later to learn that it is customary to purify your hands and face prior to entering a Shinto shrine.
What every tourist needs to know:
After washing your hands and face, be sure to let the dirty water drain outside of the stone basin and tip the blessing bucket up so that clean water runs down the handle, so that it is clean for the next person.
This is Japanese custom but also altruism and thoughtfulness.
Respect for others. I like that.
You do not want to pollute the clean water in the vessel…….
How to Purify Yourself at a shinto shrine
- Take the wodden dipper in your right hand and scoop up some water. …
- Wash your left hand. …
- Change the dipper to your left hand, and wash your right hand. …
- Change the dipper into your right hand again, and rinse your mouth with your left hand. …
- Wash the handle of the dipper by letting the water run downward …
- Put the dipper back on the basin, scoop side down. ( The Japanese always think of the next person)
Meji Shrine 1:30 pm:
Like the many other tourists caught in the downpour with or without umbrella, we sat for over 60 minutes, waiting again for the rain to abate, as we were sure it would. It didn’t.
We sat meditating – watching the cleaner; watching the white zig zag shaped streamers fluttering in the breeze wondering of their significance; watching the rain; watching a wedding couple posing for pictures; watching the rain; watching the other tourists sitting and waiting for the rain to stop. We were patient. We watched and meditated 🙂
The rain Gods were not happy with us.
The deluge became heavier.
Another tip: There’ s not a whole lot to do at Meji Shrine, once you have taken some happy snaps and checked out the shrine. No cafe on site, No souvenir shops. That is a good thing, I think, however not such a fortuitous thing, if you are waiting for rain to stop.
A roving street vendor would have made a killing that day.
Meji Shrine 2.25 pm:
There were some beautiful blossoms to admire whilst the rain fell. I got some great pictures.
We also got up close and personal with the cleaner going about his sweeping.
I noted he had updated his broom – a modern design, this time.
An hour and a half later, we decided the rain wasn’t going to stop.
Meji Shrine 2.45pm:
The rain continued. We decided to make a run for it.
Later than night, I researched the Shinto zig zag streamers that we had seen hanging at the Shrines. Their purpose was to encourage the Shinto Nature spirits to, of all things, bring a plentiful rainfall – to ensure a good rice harvest. Rice needs so much rain….
No wonder it was raining at Meji. The Zig zag streamers were hanging everywhere.
At least the shinto gods were swiftly responsive. After that day, there was one thing I was sure about – there’ll be no shortage of rice this year in Japan.
Something to Ponder About