Author: Richard Perkins
Photos/Videos Taken: 2021/03/06
Address: 1-1 Yoyogi-kamizonocho, Shibuya-ku,
明治神宮 (meiji jingū) is a Shintō shrine in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo (as its name implies) dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shōken. Emperor Meiji was the emperor of Japan during the Meiji era (1868-1912). This was an era of rapid change in the country as Emperor Meiji transformed Japan into a modern nation, ending Japan’s feudal era. This was an era when Japanese politics dramatically changed, modern conveniences such as trains were built across the country, and also an era in which Japan opened up allowing foreigners from other countries to enter.
In 1912 Emperor Meiji died, bringing an end to the Meiji era. Two years later, Empress Shōken died. Many Japanese people said that they’d like the souls of these two to be worshiped, and in 1920 Meiji Shrine was built. However, this is not the only shrine in the country dedicated to the soul of a deceased emperor. With the modernization of Japan under the rule of Emperor Meiji, other shrines dedicated to an emperor who accomplished great work over their lifetime were built. There are now a number of these shrines across the country.
Barrels of Japanese rice wine such as these can be found at Shintō shrines throughout Japan. This is what’s referred to as 神饌 (shinsen), and the alcohol is an offering to the gods. It’s not just rice wine, but food too is often laid out at a shrine as an offering to the gods.
Emperor Meiji brought and adopted many western cultures to Japan. He took the initiative to eat western food, and while doing so enjoyed western alcohol. He particularly enjoyed wine, so unlike other Shintō shrines in Japan, there are a large number of wine barrels lined up (just like the barrels of Japanese rice wine) at Meiji shrine.
A fast fact, but this huge 明神 (myōjin) style of shrine gate found just before the path leading up to the main shrine at Meiji Shrine is said to be the largest wooden shrine gate in all of Japan.