Meiji is a Shinto shrine located in one of Tokyo’s largest parks, an area forested with thousands of trees. If it weren’t for all the people visiting the shrine, you’d never know that you were in the heart of the largest city on earth. The forested portion of the park spans an area of over 70 hectares. The forest contains over 200 different species of trees, which were donated by towns from all across the country. The shrine was originally completed in the 1920’s but later destroyed during WWII. Its current incarnation dates back to the 1950s.
A large, impressive torii (Shinto gate) marks the entrance to the Shrine. Passing through the gate is said to signify leaving our daily world of the profane and entering into the realm of the sacred. From the main torii, a wide walkway leads visitors to a second torii and then into the shrine’s temple compound. A large square forms the center of the compound. On one side of the square is the main temple. On either side of the main temple are buildings which house monks and contain prayer rooms.
When I visited Meiji I had the wonderful surprise of seeing a Shinto wedding procession enter the square and head towards the main temple. The bride was dressed in a white robe with a white headcovering. A man standing behind her held a large red umbrella over her head. Immediately to her right was an older woman whose hand she held while walking. I assumed the older woman to be her mother. On her left was a man who may have been her father. A few shinshoku, Shinto priests, walked in front of the bride. They wore funky black hats, robes of different colors, and black slippers with super thick soles. The colors of the clothing set against the wooden buildingz and the green trees made for an aesthetically stunning scene. The bride’s face was pale but beautiful. I couldn’t discern any particular emotion on her face. If anything, she seemed peacefully resigned to what was to take place. I was so entranced by this scene that it was hard to take pictures. It all ended so quickly as the procession disappeared into one of the temple buildings.
How fortunate I was to see the wedding party. Shortly after the procession passed, I had to leave to make my way to the airport and exit Japan.