21 Jun Day 10: Meiji Shrine, Sensoji Temple and Ueno Park
On the tenth day of our Japan trip, I woke up feeling terrible. I had a really sore throat and just wanted to curl up and sleep. I dragged myself out of bed and we headed off to visit Meiji Jingu (Shrine). It was supposed to be a straight forward walk from Hotel Century Southern Tower but we somehow managed to lose our way. The photo below is of a street I don’t think we were meant to go down but this street also happened to be where we ended up staying the next year in an Airbnb apartment.
We eventually found a sign showing the direction to Meiji Shrine and were soon at the entrance, which is marked by a huge Torii gate made of Japanese cypress. Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji, great-grandfather of the current Emperor, and Empress Shoken. The Emperor passed away in 1912 and the Empress in 1914. In order to honour them, people donated 100,000 trees from all around Japan and overseas, planting them to create the forest. The shrine was completed in 1920 and the main building was rebuilt shortly after it was destroyed during the second world war.
The forested area that contains the shrine offers a sense of serenity within the city. The tall trees block out the city noise and as you walk along the path you are fully surrounded by forest. During our visit there were young boys and girls in gorgeous traditional clothing visiting the shrine with their parents.
Displayed in the shrine grounds are sake barrels that have been donated by sake breweries from around the country. There are also wine barrels that were gifted by wineries in France. The Emperor Meiji helped to open Japan up to the rest of world after a long time of isolation.
There were small marquees set up along a path that were filled with tall Chrysanthemums and Bonsai varieties. I believe this was part of the Chrysanthemum exhibition that takes place in November.
It was a drizzly morning but I actually quite enjoyed viewing Meiji Shrine in the misty rain, I think it added to atmosphere. We came to another large torii gate upon exiting the shrine grounds. We knew exactly where we were this time as just around the corner was Harajuku station. It’s pretty amazing to think we just left this lush green forest and entered the popular district of teen culture that is Harajuku.
After visiting Meiji Shrine I decided to go back to the hotel for a rest as I wasn’t feeling well and knew I’d just get worse if I tried to push through. I’m not one to get sick normally, I guess being in a large city and all our travelling around had taken a toll. We went back to Shinjuku station and I bought a hot lemon drink from a vending machine to help my sore throat.
On our way back to the hotel we decided to buy the special Christmas edition donuts from Krispy Kreme. Tim went inside and bought a dozen pack. They were delicious and so fresh. I’m not sure if we finished them all before they lost their freshness. The Santa and the Snowman were very cute and had a custard filling.
After indulging in donuts and having a rest, we made our way to Sensoji Temple. We had to make a transfer at Kanda station to get to Asakusa station. Just up from the station you first come to the Kaminarimon (thunder gate), Sensoji’s large outer gate. Once you’ve walked through the gate you then enter Nakamise, a shopping street that runs to Sensoji’s second gate Hozomon, which stands in front of the temples main hall.
Nakamise street was so full of people it was hard to move around and see the shops. There are many shops along the narrow shopping street. There were lots of Maneki neko, the good luck cats, Yukata’s, fans and many other traditional style Japanese souvenirs. There are also stalls selling freshly made snacks.
While we had stopped to the side of the street to look at one of the shop fronts a group of school girls approached us to ask if they could interview us for their school project. I agreed and the questions were much the same as the ones I had been asked by school children during our visit of Kiyomizudera. After signing their work and saying goodbye to the giggly girls, we passed under the Hozomon gate.
We watched people wafting incense smoke over themselves from the large burner that stands in front of the main hall. We then walked up the steps and entered the main hall to look inside, careful not to disturb those who were saying their prayers. The ceiling of the main hall is covered with art work and is absolutely stunning.
From the top of the main hall steps we looked out to the Hozomon gate and could see the crowds of people walking down Nakamise street. We walked to the left of the main hall, viewing the five storied pagoda. We then strolled around a little garden area that had a pond with fish and a small waterfall.
We walked down a little street outside of the temple grounds, passing by Hanayashiki, Tokyo’s oldest amusement park. We had no idea it was there, we could see rides from over the fence and a quick Google search told us what it was. As we headed back towards Sensoji we noticed some lovely roof details and could also see Tokyo Skytree towering above the building.
We headed back out the way we had come, walking down busy Nakamise street again. It was just as crowded as before. Someone from home had requested a Maneki Neko and this was the place to get one, there were so many to choose from. I thought about buying other souvenir items but we had run out of cash, by the time we walked to a nearby 7-11 to use the ATM, I couldn’t face heading back into the crowded area again, so we went to the station.
For the rest of the day we chose to go to Ueno Park as it is just a 5 minute train trip from Asakusa Station to Ueno Station. We came out of Ueno station and walked up a large set of stairs that took us into Ueno Park. After walking for a while, we came to a large water feature, which has a Starbucks nearby. There were lots of little white tents set up near the water feature, we couldn’t work out what they were for. Each one seemed to be giving out information, with leaflets and brochures.
We decided to go to a museum while we were there and chose the National Museum Of Nature And Science. I found the exhibits on the people through history and how they worked on the land the most interesting and Fletcher liked seeing the animals, stuffed animals that is. We were a bit lost at times as the displays were all in Japanese, so we weren’t always sure of what we were looking at.
After the Museum, Fletcher thought we all needed some exercise and ran almost the whole way to the parks exit, stopping every now and then to look at something. It was now late afternoon and it would take us over half an hour to get back to our hotel. We left Ueno Station and got the train to Yoyogi Station, where it was just a short walk back to our hotel. We got Fletcher settled down as quickly as possible that night, the next day would be a busy day with an early start, we were going to Tokyo Disneyland.