History of Meiji Jingu Shrine
Must-See Places at Meiji Jingu Shrine

Meiji Jingu Shrine is among eastern Japan's most well-known, and Tokyo's largest shrines. The shrine holds a place close to the hearts of many Japanese people, and during the annual hatsumode (new-year's shrine visit), records the highest number of visitors on any regular year. Meiji Jingu is also widely popular as a location for wedding ceremonies, and as a "power spot" that bestows spiritual energy to visitors.

Despite locating right in between Shinjuku and Shibuya, two of urban Tokyo's most populous shopping and entertainment districts, Meiji Jingu Shrine and its neighboring Yoyogi Park have an incredible amount of greenery. The premises are surrounded by a serene veil of forestry, making it a space fitting the bill of an "urban oasis of nature." Depending on the season you visit on, Meiji Jingu will present an entirely different palette of flowers and vegetation. Here, we will introduce Meiji Jingu's history, and why the shrine is worth a visit!

History of Meiji Jingu Shrine

End of the Meiji Period

The passing of Emperor Meiji in 1912 left citizens in shock and grief. Emperor Meiji ruled as the first emperor of modern Japan, after the Tokugawa family’s feudal rule came to an end in the late 19th century. The people’s voices of sorrow reached the government, and a plan to build a shrine worshipping the late Emperor and Empress began. Several places emerged as possible shrine locations, and ultimately the former Yoyogi imperial estate triumphed the rest.

From the Taisho to Showa Period

Visitors entering Meiji-jingu

Even with the location decided, construction could not start yet while the land was as unkempt as it was. With the formation of the Meiji-jingu Construction Department, construction finally started with the help of forest planning experts, such as Honda Seiroku and Hongo Takanori, both involved in the making the blueprint of Hibiya Park, and landscape architect Uehara Keiji. The help of these landscaping geniuses lead to the completion of Meiji-jingu Shrine buildings in 1920.

The air strikes during the Second World War burned down Meiji-jingu’s shrine buildings in 1945. However, donations sent from Japanese people all over the country (and even overseas) aided the rebuilding process that and completed in 1958.

The "Eternal Forest" of Meiji Jingu Shrine

Meiji-jingu's "eternal forest"

Although the shrine today is surrounded by the cover of an impressive forest, the area around Meiji Jingu was originally unkempt and unmaintained. The forest is human-made, and its foundations were laid by the efforts of many people involved.

Planning the forest around Meiji-jingu came with much dilemma and thoughts. A few of the masterminds of the project, landscaping experts Honda Seiroku, Hongo Takanori and Uehara Keiji, began to plan a forest that closely simulates a natural one, and could withstand the test of time for the following 100 years.

First, several varieties of pine trees were used to create the forest's framework. From the nearly 1 million pine trees that were donated from all around Japan, especially large ones were selected and planted. By planting other fast-growing species of cypress and cedar in between, the forest was then made more dense. On top of this, varieties of oak, beech, and camphor were added too. The intention of their plan was to create a natural cycle, in which once the original pine trees wilted, the cypress and cedar will take their place while the oak, beech and camphor trees continued to grow. The architects of Meiji Jingu's forest planned a forest, in which the trees facilitate their own natural cycle of life. The 100-year forest was reaching its completion.

However, the prime minister at the time, Okuma Shigenobu, strongly opposed the idea. He called the proposed mixed forest a "bush", and called for a pure cedar forest for Meiji Jingu. Cedar trees require a large amount of water to thrive, making Okuma's proposal near implausible with the poor water retentive properties of the area's soil. To realize their vision of the "100-year forest" and convince Okuma, the landscaping experts in charge of Meiji Jingu's forest continued in their research until finally, the forest was able to achieve completion.

Currently, 100,000 trees of 234 species compose Meiji Jingu's forest. This man-made forest has grown into a natural nursery for some endangered species, as well as the "Jingu Usumaru Himebachi", a newly-discovered species of bees.

Must-See Places at Meiji Jingu Shrine

Exterior of Meiji Jingu Shrine's main hall

Main Shrine buildings:

Here are the main buildings found on the shrine grounds:
・ Hon-den: The main shrine building
・ Norito-den: Hall where the Shinto liturgy is recited
・ Naihai-den: Inner shrine hall
・ Gaihai-den: Outer shrine hall
・ Shinko: The treasure warehouse
・ Shinsen-jo: The consecrated kitchen for the preparation of food offerings

Aside from the main buildings, Meiji Jingu has several locations that are lesser-known, but just as fascinating!

The Treasure Hall - "Homotsu-den"


Located in the northern tip of the shrine grounds, the Treasure Hall is the first reinforced concrete structure building in Japan. Built in 1921, the Treasure Hall houses a myriad of imperial goods, from desks to carriages, all used or closely related to Emperor Meiji or Empress Shoken. Japan designated the Treasure Hall as an Important Cultural Heritage in 2011.
**Temporarily closed due to earthquake-proof construction

Meiji Jingu Bunka-kan

The Bunka-kan is located on the southern-east edge of Meiji-jingu, and contains the following facilities:
Treasure Exhibition Room: Aside from the Treasure Hall, the Treasure Exhibition Room also exhibits items cherished by the imperial family. In the spring and autumn, the special exhibits display rare items for a limited time.
There is also a restaurant, cafe and a souvenir shop in the Bunka-kan.

Opening hours:
・9:00a.m. – 4:00p.m. (Nov. to Feb.: closes at 4:00p.m.); last entry 30 minutes before closing time.
Entry fee:

Meiji-jingu Gyoen

The iris garden at Meiji Jingu Gyoen Garden

Meiji Jingu’s inner garden, the Meiji Jingu Gyoen, sits in the southern half of the shrine grounds. The garden is particularly famous for Kiyomasa’s well (Kiyomasa no Ido 清正井). Legend goes that Kato Kiyomasa, a famed daimyo before the Edo period who helped Tokugawa Ieyasu unify Japan, dug up the well himself. The Japanese familiarize the well as a notorious “power spot” – a spot believed to increase your luck and provide you with spiritual power.
With a countless number of flowers in the garden, every season reveals a different side to Meiji Jingu Gyoen. The most popular sights include the iris garden, made by Emperor Meiji for Empress Shoken, the azaleas in May, and the maple trees during the fall foliage season.

Opening hours:
・Between March and October: 9:00a.m. – 4:30p.m.
・Between November and February: 9:00a.m. – 4:00p.m.
 - June: 8:00a.m. – 5:00p.m., extended until 6:00p.m. on weekends.
・Entry fee: ¥500



The use of Kagura-den, built in 1991, strictly limits to executing Shinto performances. The Shinto performance, called Kagura-mai, is a mix of traditional ritual dance and music, and is only performed during special prayer ceremonies, called Kigan-sai. The prayer ceremonies take place daily, and anyone can join.

Reception hours:
・9:00a.m. – 4:00a.m. at Kagura-den; registration on the day

Kigan-sai hours:
・Every 30 minutes between 9:30a.m. – 4:30a.m.

・From ¥5,000


Here are some of Meiji Jingu's annual events!

Spring Festival (April/May)

The Spring Festival takes place between late April and early May, and celebrates the season of spring. Traditional performances such as kagura-mai, noh, kyo-gen and mai-raku animate the usually serene shrine grounds.

Doll Festival (October)

It’s never easy to throw out dolls or stuffed animals, as they usually hold a great amount of sentimental value. The Doll Festival reduces the guilt and grief in doing so, by having a priest perform a purification ceremony before ridding them. The dolls can be brought in the day of the event in October, and the participation fee is ¥3000.


Nearest stations:
・Harajuku Station (JR Yamanote Line JY19)
・Meiji-jingumae Station 明治神宮前駅 (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line C03 and Fukutoshin Line F15)

From Shinjuku Station

【Shinjuku Sta.】JR Yamanote Line / for Shibuya
→【Harajuku Sta.】from the Omotesando Exit → about a 1-minute walk

From Tokyo Station

【Tokyo Sta.】JR Yamanote Line / for Shinagawa
→【Harajuku Sta.】from the Omotesando Exit → about a 1-minute walk

From Narita Airport

【Narita Airport Sta.】Skyliner / for Keisei Ueno
→【Nippori Sta.】JR Yamanote Line / for Ikebukuro
→ 【Harajuku Sta.】from the Omotesando Exit → about a 1-minute walk

From Haneda Airport

【Haneda Airport Sta.】Keikyu Airport Express Limited Express / for Narita Airport
→ 【Shinagawa Sta.】JR Yamanote Line / for Shibuya
→ 【Harajuku Sta.】from the Omotesando Exit → about a 1-minute walk


1-1 Kamizono-cho Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku Tokyo
From sunrise to sunset (depends on month)
Gyoen: ¥500

Homotsuden: ¥500

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