I was delighted when my host family from a few years ago took the time out of their schedule visit me in Tokyo. I told them I wanted to see Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu), but I did not predict the rainy weather. Despite the rain, I really enjoyed visiting this beautiful and peaceful shrine with my host family. Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. When you enter you will see massive gates (torii) made out of wood. These gates often appear in tourist photos of this spot and it is not hard to see why.
As you walk toward the shrine itself you will see omikuji for sale. These are poems of 31 syllables written by the Emperor and Empress. After you pay 100 yen, you shake a cylinder and pull out one of the wooden sticks. Each stick has a different number and you will get the poem that matches your number. The gist of my poem was that it easy to quit, but one should work hard despite failures.
When you keep walking, you will see a water fountain of sorts with people gathered around it. Before you visit the Shrine, you are supposed to wash your hands and rinse your mouth. There is a way you are supposed to wash your hands. Good thing my host family explained it to me because I would have no idea what to do otherwise. Once you are clean, you can go pray at the Shrine. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong! There is a special way to pray including bowing, clapping, and an offering of money. Again, I was lucky to have my host family there to guide me through the prayer.
I was also delighted to see that a traditional Japanese wedding was taking place at the Shrine. The bride and groom looked stunning in their traditional clothes. One interesting fact I learned from a colleague is the meaning behind the bride’s head covering. It is meant to cover her "horns" of ego, jealousy, or anything else that might prevent her from being a good wife.
On our way out, there was a line of chefs making wagashi, which are Japanese sweets served with green tea. These wagashi were shaped like delicate purple and pink flowers. The bitterness of the tea and the sweetness of the wagashi really complement each other. The Japanese have a talent for creating beautiful food.
Later that day, we went to see Tokyo Tower. I have a special fondness for Tokyo Tower. There is something nostalgic about it even though I am seeing it for the first time this summer. Since I was a child, the thought of Tokyo always brought up the image of Tokyo Tower, so it was great to finally see it in person. In fact, I get to see it everyday from afar because I have a great view of it from my neighborhood. Another great day in Tokyo!