Find your zen in a thick forest of cedar trees on your way to the Meiji Shrine, one of the most important Shinto shrine in Shibuya, Tokyo. It’s only a few steps away from Harajuku Station, a neighborhood filled with trendy bars and cafes and known for its colorful street art, as well as its vintage clothing stores and cosplay shops.
Before arriving to the shrine, two 40-feet tall torii gates at the entrance mark the long road to the shrine. This path surrounded by the tranquil forest and lined with almost 100,000 cedar trees. Each tree was donated by regions all over Japan during the construction of the shrine. The Meiji Shrine and the nearby Yoyogi Park, surrounded by a thick forests of trees, serves to drown out the city life outside and gives the area a sense zen. Many locals come to the shrine to escape the hectic world outside with a relaxing stroll through these peaceful walking paths.
I walked through these gates excited to see the beautiful jade-colored rooftops on the Meiji Shrine. However, due to the construction for the 2020 Summer Olympics, I was did not get the experience I expected. Instead, I was greeted with volunteers collecting donations for the shrine’s new roof. The original rooftops were built with copper, but have eroded overtime and turned into a shade of jade. In anticipation of the Summer Olympics, visitors to the shrine could purchase a piece of tile and engrave their name on it.
In addition to the massive torri gates, a vast wall of sake barrels sits outside of the shrine’s entrance. These barrels are called kazaridaru, which mean “decoration barrels”. They are empty, physically, but spiritually full of meaning. In Japan, sake is a symbolic unification of Gods and people. It’s the beverage of choice for all celebrations, big or small. These empty barrels can be found at many shrines and are usually donated by local brewers.