Sunday, September 15, 2013

Shinjuku and Meiji Shrine

On Saturday I continued my spree of sightseeing for the weekend and went to Shinjuku and Meiji Shrine with a friend from the U.S., Maddie. We are both studying abroad here this fall, so we thought it would be fun if we could meet up and go see some things together. Since we live in different areas of the city, we decided it would be easier to just pick a place somewhere in the middle and meet there. We decided to go to Shinjuku first. We spent our time just wandering around and window shopping. All the stuff was really nice, but it was so expensive! There were lots of stores with French or designer names. I really wanted to buy everything, but I didn't since it was so expensive!
Japanese cakes. They are so pretty!

Shinjuku street view

Everything is so cute and girly!

After walking around for a while we decided to find somewhere to eat. We found this restaurant called Takadaya. It was super nice inside, so we thought it was going to be expensive, but the food was actually pretty cheap. I had a great time catching up with Maddie over lunch, since we haven't seen each other since before we both came to Japan.

I had a Ten-don and Soba set (天丼とそば). I would give the restaurant 4 stars. The food was extremely good, the prices were cheap, and the service was awesome.

After lunch, we went to see Meiji Shrine. It is only a few stops away from Shinjuku. I was really excited to see something of the traditional Japan and get away from all the buildings. I have never lived in a big city before, so it was nice to go to a place that actually had a lot of trees and grass. On the way to the shrine we got to see a little bit of Harajuku. We looked down one of the main streets, but decided that it would be a trip for another day. 

Entrance to a street in Harajuku

Harajuku street

We finally got to the shrine, and it was amazing! The shrine is a Shinto shrine (Japan's ancient original religion) dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken. These two were known for helping to open the country to the rest of the world and promoting national welfare. Empress Shoken is also known for helping to promote women's education. After they died, the people of Japan voluntarily worked to create the shrine and surrounding forest to commemorate their virtues. There are many different parts of the shrine, such as the Main Shrine, gardens, a museum, and many buildings such as a Martial Arts Hall. I didn't get to see nearly all of the area, and I would love to go back to explore more! Maddie and I spent most of our time just going around the Main Shrine area. 
The entrance to the whole park

Going to the path to the Main Shrine

The path was so pretty! It was the biggest 'street' that we have seen in Japan!

The surrounding area is filled with trees, and now just looks like any other natural forest

Sake barrels offered to the deities of Meiji Shrine by the Meiji Jingu Nationwide Sake Brewers Association

Emperor Meiji was famous for promoting friendship between Japan and other countries. These wine barrels are offered from wineries in Bourgogne, France to promote world peace and amity and continued friendship between the French and Japanese

The entrance to the Main Shrine area

Rinsing before going to the Main Shrine. You rinse your hands and mouth with the ladles (but don't actually touch your lips to it!). The place where you do this is called Temizusha 

Going into the Main Shrine area after rinsing

A divine tree around which people hang their prayers

Maddie and I shared a votive and wrote our prayers on it!

I bought a charm at the shrine for good health. It will protect me from diseases and other worries.

There were strict rules at the Main Shrine about not taking pictures of the shrine or the area where people pay respects. I was a little sad because it would have been cool to get pictures of us doing it. However, we followed the rules and didn't take any pictures. To pay respect to the deities there are three steps. 
1. Bow twice
2. Clap your hands twice
3. Bow once again
I felt a little self-conscious at first, both when rinsing before entering the shrine and paying respects, since we were some of the only foreigners doing it. I'm really glad we did it though, since it was a really good experience! We just copied what all the other people were doing there. We didn't get any strange looks, so maybe they appreciated that we were trying to fit in and fully experiencing the culture instead of just taking a few pictures and leaving. After leaving the park, we stopped at a little cafe for something to drink. We went to Doutor and I had a mango/passion yogurt drink. I would give this cafe 4 stars. The drinks were extremely delicious! After that we parted ways and each went home. It was a really fun day sightseeing and catching up with a friend from the states. I'm really glad that I got to see something of traditional Japanese culture. 




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