Meiji Shrine - Tokyo Tourist Guide
Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken had great influence in forming the base of modern Japan. The Emperor died in 1912 and the Empress two years later. In their honor the construction of Meiji Shrine commenced in 1915 and they were enshrined on 1 November, 1920 although the surrounding grounds were completed not complete till 1926.
The Shrine was built in the so-called Nagarezukuri style with Japanese cypress from Kiso, which is considered the best lumber in Japan, and copper. They area chosen for the shrine had been visited often by the Emperor and Empress because of its iris garden.
The area where the shrine was built is about 700,000 square meters and its 120,000 evergreen trees of 365 different species donated from all corners of the country form a lush forest. Although the shrine is visited by many people on a daily basis, a relaxing walk along the paths that lead around the shrine gives the impression that Tokyo only exists in the far distance.
During the Second World War the main building was destroyed, but rebuilt through public donations. Reconstruction was finished in 1958.
Meiji Shrine consists of two area, the inner part or "Naien" and the outer part or the Gaien".
The Naien houses the shrine buildings and a treasure museum that displays articles that belonged to the Emperor and Empress.
The Gaien houses The Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, The National Noh Theater, a baseball stadium, a rugby ground, an ice skating rink, a swimming pool, tennis courts, and sports courts, as well as The Meiji Memorial Hall, where the Meiji Constitution was drafted. Nowadays it is used for Shinto weddings.
After nearly 300 years of very limited contacts with the rest of the world during the Tokugawa Bakufu, the Meiji Era that followed was seen as a period of enlightenment. A policy of "Japanese Spirit and Western Knowledge" was adopted, with the idea to learn from the best of Western Culture while keeping the spirit and traditions of Japan's long known history. The Meiji Emperor was the first head of state to actually make Tokyo his residence where he took the lead by promoting modernization in his personal life. The Meiji Emperor started wearing Western clothes, sheared his topknot and began eating Western food. He particularly enjoyed wine with his meals. The barrels of wine that line the entrance road to Meiji Shrine were gifts to the Emperor from wineries in Bourgogne in France.
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