Finding Peace At The Meiji Shrine, Tokyo: A Visitor’s Guide

by Karen Warren
People walking on the courtyard area of Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan

Meiji Shrine (明治神宮), a Shinto shrine located in the Shibuya area and north of Yogogi Park, is one of the most tranquil places in Tokyo to visit. 

From the forest bathing experience to the spiritual rituals, it’s well worth the visit to Meiji Shrine.

Continue reading what it’s like to visit Meiji Shrine and the unique experiences to try. 

My journey started with witnessing a few white-robed monks silently raking the gravel. There were no other sounds but birdsongs. 

I was in the Outer Precinct of the Meiji Shrine, surrounded by a massive forest with trees of every species. 

The morning was bitterly cold, and there was hardly anyone around—a far cry from the crowded streets of Tokyo just beyond the gate.  

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What is the Meiji Shrine? 

This is a Shinto shrine, built for the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shöken after the Emperor’s death in 1912. The burial of the Emperor is located in the Kyoto area

With the donation of 100,000+ trees from around the country and youth volunteers, the shrine finished construction in 1920. 

It’s located in the heart of the forest, so you can relax, enjoy nature, and escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo’s city life. 

The tall grey torii entrance gate to Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

This is a torii gate at the entrance to the Outer Precinct. Photo credit: WorldWideWriter

Unique Experiences at Meiji Shrine

1. Purification of Hands

I watched as a man approached the purification trough, filled a large ladle with water, and rinsed both of his hands. 

I did the same and followed him towards the main hall, where he entered to make his prayers and offerings. 

I did not go in as this is a place of worship, and I was the only tourist there.

2. Observing Rituals

At Meiji Shrine, several rituals occur daily and monthly. 

Nikku-sai are daily offerings of food to the deities and for peace and prosperity for everyone. Here, they are done twice a day at 8:00am and 2:00pm. 

Tsukinami-sai are done monthly on the 1st and 15th at 9:00am. This ritual is also for peace and respect for everyone. 

You’ll see people wearing white robes and performing rituals. 

Saitan-sai is to celebrate the start of the New Year. Everyone goes to a shrine on January 1 and for the next three days afterward, so the temples are extremely busy and crowded. 

Meiji Shrine is the most popular shrine to visit for the New Year. Many people visit to pray for a prosperous new year and receive lucky charms. 

Life Of Doing Experience: It took us over an hour to enter the Meiji Shrine when we visited in the New Year time. We didn’t know about the temple visit at New Year’s. Luckily the shrine had people managing the flow of visitors, so the temple wasn’t overly congested. Everyone was cordial and waited in line patiently. It was quite an experience.

Crowds of people waiting in front of Meiji Shrine to make prayers at New Year time

Many locals visit Meiji Shrine for prayers at the New Year. Photo credit: Life Of Doing

3. Buy and Write An Ema

All temples have the opportunity for visitors to buy an ema

These are the wooden plaques on which worshippers and visitors write their wishes and prayers once they have completed their devotions.

At Meiji Shrine, hundreds of emas hung on a stand outside the shrine and next to a tall tree.

A display of the ema, wooden boards, with people's wishes at Tokyo's Meiji Shrine

Worshippers write their wishes on wooden emas. Photo credit: WorldWideWriter

A tall tree covering the display of emas, wooden boards, at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

Here is another photo of the Meiji Shrine and the emas. Photo credit: Life Of Doing

4. Exploring the Inner Garden (Meiji Jingu Gyeon, 明治神宮御苑)

The shrine complex was built around the Meiji Jingu, a garden dating from the Edo Period (1603-1867). This was where the Emperor and Empress sought quiet and solitude during their lifetimes. 

The lake, full of large golden carp, was a favorite fishing spot for the Emperor. 

He had a teahouse built among the irises and azaleas for Empress Shöken (the teahouse burnt down during the war but has since been rebuilt).

I stood by the lake where some boys were putting food on their hands and waiting for small birds to swoop down and claim it. 

Then I walked down to the Kiyo-masa Well, built by a 17th-century warlord. 

According to the guidebooks, the well is a magnet for visitors who believe they can draw positive energy from it, but I had it to myself. It was peaceful, if not energizing.

A well surrounded by stone steps at Meiji Shrine's Inner Garden

Many people believe they can draw positive energy from the Kiyo-masa Well. Photo credit: WorldWideWriter

There is a small fee of 500 yen per person for maintaining the garden. 

5. Seeing the Outer Precinct Murals

Back in the Outer Precinct, I stopped to look at a collection of murals depicting the lives and works of the Emperor and Empress.    

A display of The Empress visits patients at the hospital for which she was a patron at the Meiji Shrine Outer Murals

The Empress visits patients at the hospital for which she was a patron. Photo credit: WorldWideWriter

6. Sake & Wine Bottles

Further along was a display of barrels, wrapped in straw and brightly painted. 

These were empty sake (Japanese rice wine) barrels, representing the donations of sake to the shrine for ritual purposes. 

Empty sake rice wine barrels in front of Meiji Shrine

The empty sake barrels are a fun display to take photos. Photo credit: Life Of Doing

And next to this, barrels of red wine (Burgundy wine), as gifts from the wineries of Bourgogne in France.  

Empty wine barrels on display at Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

Gifts of wine from French wineries. Photo credit: WorldWideWriter

7. Meiji Jingu Museum

Located in the northern part of the Precinct, this museum has treasures from Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken’s time. 

Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to visit. But I read that you can see Emperor Meiji’s carriage, his desk, his portrait, and other special exhibits. 

There is an admission fee to visit this place. It cost 1000 yen for adults and 900 yen for high school students and younger. 

Opening Hours: 10:00am to 4:30pm (last admission at 4:00pm). Closed on Thursdays.

How to Get to Meiji Shrine

The most convenient way to get there is to take the train and walk into the shrine area. 

TIP: Wear comfortable shoes since the walking path between the main torii gates and the shrine has small rocks and dirt. 

Here are the closest stations: 

  • Yoyogi Station (JR Yamamote Line)
  • Harajuku Station (JR Yamamote Line)
  • Kita-sando Station (Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line)
  • Meiji-jingumae Station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line)
  • Sangubashi Station (Odakyu Line)

When Is the Best Time to Visit Meiji Shrine?

You can visit the shrine at any time of the day. It’s typically open from sunrise to sunset. Click here to see the opening and closing hours by month. 

It’s recommended to go early in the mornings or late afternoons on weekdays as there will be fewer people. 

As mentioned earlier, if you’re visiting Tokyo or any areas of Japan for the New Year, you should avoid the first few days of the New Year holidays. 

The temples will be extremely crowded, especially the Meiji Shrine. But if you want to see what the rituals and crowds are like, then definitely visit. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to enter?

  • Meiji Shrine: Free to visit. Donations are accepted. 
  • Meiji Garden: 500 yen for a maintenance fee
  • Meiji Jingu Museum: 1,000 yen for adults and 900 yen for high school students and younger

How much time is needed here?

You’ll want to spend at least 30 minutes to over an hour here. It’s a beautiful place to get some fresh air and nature in the middle of the city.  

Is there a dress code to visit the Meiji Shrine? 

No, but please be respectful with your clothes. 

Are drones allowed at Meiji Shrine?

According to the shrine’s website, drones are not allowed here. 

Final Thoughts

Meiji Shrine is a memorable place to visit with its history, nature areas, and spiritual experiences. 

If you have the chance to visit, it’s a fantastic addition to any Tokyo itinerary. I hope you love it as much as I did! 

Follow my travel adventures at WorldWideWriter.

For other posts on Tokyo, check out these from Life Of Doing:

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