Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tokyo Day 2- Fun with a Friend- Morning at Meiji Shrine

On our second full day in Tokyo we met up with a new friend who had made plans to show us various sites.   We strapped on our athletic shoes and headed off by subway to Harajuku, the shopping area for younger people.  There we saw the famous garb of the Japanese youth- eclectic and fun for the most part. But the real first destination was the Meiji Jingu (Shrine), established in 1920 for the  Emperor Meiji (ruling from 1862-1912) and his consort Empress Shoken, who are considered deities.  We passed through three gates, called torii, where as our host explained you successively leave behind the physical world to enter the spiritual.  On our way in we were lucky to pass two wedding parties in traditional Shinto dress, as well as some "spirits"  and a young woman dressed in traditional kimono talking on a cell phone.

First Torii at Meiji Jinju

Another Torii
Gift of wine from France to Emperor Meiji who opened Japan to the West

Traditional wedding

We did a ceremonial cleansing at the  Temizusha (ablutions font) and then went up to the main shrine, where one bows twice, claps hands twice and bows once again. A coin offering is also accepted.   On our way out of the grounds, which were stunning in autumn colors, I heard chanting so like a child to the pied piper I found a group of elderly people practicing chants for a performance- a Shinto choral group if you will. (see addendum) Very haunting.
Offertory Box to left
Shinto chant practice
Main Shrine
Drum in front of Shrine

Grounds of Meiji Jinju

For more information on Shintoism, which Emperor Meiji made the state religion of Japan in 1868, see here  and here.  Most important, for my niece in particular, is that Kami are Shinto gods.

UP NEXT: The afternoon/ evening in Tokyo at the Hama Rikyu park, Sumida River trip, Asakusa and Ginza.
ADDENDUM :  To the western ear, the people chanting sounded like a choral performance to me.  However, that description is not really accurate in context.  My friend, guide and helpful editor points out that the performance " is called Shigin, which is a traditional form of Japanese poetry and usually chanted. There is strictly only one standard melody."
Also, Lonely Planet August 9, 2010 states: 
Visiting a shrine:
Entering a shrine can be a bewildering experience. Just past the gate you’ll find achozuya (trough of water) with a hishaku (long-handed ladle) to purify yourself. Take a ladle, fill it with water, pour some over one hand, then transfer the spoon and pour water over the other hand. Finally, pour water into your cupped hand and rinse your mouth, spitting the water onto the ground.

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