Today we went off at last to the Meiji shrine– yet another lovely green patch in the middle of the city. It’s a relatively new Shinto shrine from 1920 (then burnt in the air raids and rebuilt) that commemorates the divine souls of the Emperor Meiji and his wife.
There’s a long, gradual walk up the hill, lined with gardens and racks of donated sake and wine casks.
We discovered today that weekends are perfect for seeing the shrine because there are wedding photo-ops every 5 minutes or so.
The actual sacred space in the temple is at the back of a giant courtyard, surrounded by lots of associated buildings from which the happy couples shuffle back and forth, escorted by priests, followed by their well-dressed guests, and manically photographed by local and foreign tourists.
The center of the courtyard also features a large, sacred camphor tree, surrounded by small votive wood blocks.
You purloin a woodblock from very friendly temple saleswomen, write you prayer, hang it around the tree, and then every few mornings they are ceremonially burnt by the priests and on goes your wish. So, in honor of my poor mum’s spectacular ladder-fall last week and her upcoming surgery:
We also stumbled across preparations for a rather unique festival today: the festival to thank dolls.
It came as no big shock to someone who spent their early years toting around a small, snuggly confidant and partner-in-crime, but the Japanese traditionally believe that these little fellows accrue spirits thru all the constant love and attention. Yes, centuries before the Velveteen Rabbit wormed its way into our hearts and put a face on the guilt of growing up and leaving our fuzzy (and lovingly de-fuzzed) friends behind, the Japanese were all over it with a Doll Memorial Ceremony.
We’ll miss the actual ceremony tomorrow, but in preparation, the temple hosted a historical doll exhibit: