Meiji Jingu, Yoyogi Park and Ota Museum | Harajuku Tokyo (Part 1)
Harajuku Tokyo (原宿) lies between Shinjuku and Shibuya on the Yamanote Line. At Harajuku, you get to witness Japan’s teenage scene and eccentric fashion at Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street). And you get to shop at stylish Omotesando Hills or the nearby hipster district, Cat Street. There’s more shopping at LaForet and Tokyu Plaza. Be sure to also drop by interesting shops in Harajuku such as Oriental Bazaar, Porter Bag and Line Friends.
If shopping is not your thing or you can’t stand the crowd, you might find respite at Meiji Jingu (one of Tokyo’s major shrines), Yoyogi Park, Nezu Museum or Ota Memorial Museum of Art (where beautiful ukiyo-e paintings are exhibited). After all the walking, replenish yourself with delicious food in Harajuku! Find out what you can eat at ‘What to Eat in Harajuku and Shibuya Tokyo?‘.
The above is a quick snapshot of what you might find at Harajuku. To know more details and the best way to explore Harajuku Tokyo, follow our trail:
Meiji Jingu Shrine
We made our first stop at Meji Jingu which is near to JR Harajuku. From here, we walked to Takeshita Dori and then through Cat Street to reach Shibuya.
About Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine)
Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken, who passed away in 1912 and 1914 respectively, while their tombs are in Kyoto. Shinto is a Japanese religion which focuses on ritual practices to connect present-day Japan to its ancient past and has no founder, no central figure, nor holy book.
The building of the shrine mobilised youth and civic associations throughout Japan to contribute labour and funding. Completed in 1921, Meiji Jingu is designated as one of the most highly ranked Imperial shrines, a Kanpei-taisha (官幣大社). Air raids during World War II destroyed the original building and the present shrine was re-built and completed in 1958 through funds from public fundraising efforts.
Getting To Meiji Jingu
Meiji Jingu is also near to Tokyo Metro Meijijingu-Mae Station, however it’s a shorter walk from JR Harajuku (Omotesando exit). However, if you are lost in Harajuku station like us and exited from Takeshita exit instead (you might notice a Gap store opposite of you), stepped out of the station and turn right. Walked for about 100m and turn right again. You will then see a majestic wooden gate (torri).
We knew we were somewhere near when we saw a person walking in high heels clogs (photo below). We’re not sure if this is a ritual costume or just Harajuku fashion. His face was painted and had a possessed kind of look. It was quite scary, so I secretly took a snap from his side and quickly walked on.
Anyway, even though we exited from Takeshita exit which was further away, it only took us about 5 minutes to walk from the JR Station to Meiji Jingu’s gate. That’s near! Good for our legs that were already tired from the walking at Doraemon Museum and Shimo Kitazawa.
But boy, were we wrong! It was just the beginning of a “never ending” path to reach the main shrine building from the gate – it will probably take you 10 minutes of walking. So clear your bladder before the walk!
It might even take more than 10 minutes if you have young children, elderly or those who might have trouble walking on rocky grounds. Yeap, do note that the path is paved with small stones and hence not wheelchair friendly. The walking might also take longer if you stop and take photos of interesting artefacts along the way.
As we walked along the pathway, we came across rows of barrels. On one side are rows of sake barrels wrapped in straw and parallel to them on the other side are rows of wine barrels. Quite a sight!
Note that Meiji Jingu opens from sunrise to sunset, and hence the opening hours change every month. It closes early during winter when the day is shorter. So make sure you schedule enough time to walk in and out and tour around the shrine before the sun sets.
At Meiji Jingu
So happy when we finally reached! Just before the entrance, we saw people scooping water to wash their hands. This is apparently a hand washing custom before going into the shrine.
And there’s a way to do it, according to this blog: Take the dipper with your right hand to scoop and pour some of the water on your left hand, then pour some on your right hand. Now to rinse your mouth, transfer the dipper back to your right hand, and pour water into your cupped left hand and to your mouth. Don’t drink directly from the dipper. Silently swish in your mouth and don’t drink it. Then quietly spit it back into your left hand and not into the water reservoir. Then, hold the dipper’s handle in both hands and make it vertical so the remaining water washes the handle. Put the dipper back to where you found it.
p.s. Can’t comment much about our experience because we didn’t do it. Being Christians, we weren’t comfortable in doing this ritual.
The wash basin at the main entrance we arrived at was crowded. This is because it was where most people enter the shrine by. However, if you want to take photo of an empty basin or want to wash your hands and mouth with less crowd, head to the side gates: The (2) indicated in the map (meijijingu.or.jp/english/map/1.html) are other places you can find these wash basins. Head to the nearer right side entrance if you want. This is also a good opportunity to explore the shrine grounds on different walking paths as it is in a beautiful and dense forest.
You can also find the shrine “signature”: wooden blocks of prayers and wishes written and hung on the shrine grounds. If you wish, you can also purchase amulets for different types of blessings from ¥800 to ¥1000 (S$10 – S$12.60).
We managed to get a glimpse of the bride and groom of a Shinto wedding. You might even have better luck than us and witness the solemn procession of a Shinto wedding. Two priests and two shrine maidens lead the way of the procession, followed by the couple under a red umbrella and then their family and friends. When a procession passes, please clear the way and maintain the dignity of the moment. Don’t step too near or in the way of the procession to take photos.
We didn’t make it to the treasure museum which was quite a distance away from the main building.
- meijijingu.or.jp/english/index.html; Shrine Map
- Sunrise to Sunset, hence the opening hours change every month
- Meiji Jingu 1-1 Yoyogi-Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-8857, Japan
- Nearby Train Stations for the various gates.
- South Shrine Gate: JR Harajuku Station (Omotesando Exit) and Tokyo Metro, Meiji Jingu Mae Station (Exit 2)
After Meiji Jingu, you might want to spend more time in the nature and people watch. And Yoyogi Park is a place for you to do just that! It’s only a 5 minutes walk from Meiji Jingu. Being Tokyo’s fourth largest urban park with wide lawns and fountains, it is a great place for outdoor activities such as jogging, picnicking and holding practice sessions and performances for all sorts of talent.
Before Yoyogi Park became a park, the site was once used as an U.S. army barracks after the war and the Olympic village for 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Currently, Yoyogi Park has two sections separated by a road: the forested area and a section of stadium, outdoor stage and other facilities.
The Yoyogi park mentioned in this post and in most other travel websites refers to the forested area. For a better idea, here’s a Yoyogi Park Map. You can simply hang around at the east entrance or the water facilities, or head up north — to cycle, eat at a snack hut or enjoy a dog run of terriers dressed in rhinestones and denim.
As for us, we were running out of time to explore the rest of Harajuku. Hence, we only made it to the east entrance which was near to Harajuku JR station/Meiji Jingu and u-turned back to Takeshita Dori. But we still managed to admire a group of folks in their fifties or sixties donning Elvis-inspired hairstyle and costume and dancing rock and roll to American (retro) pop music! They’re usually at the east entrance on Sunday, and Sunday is the best time to catch most of the action at Yoyogi Park.
- Admission is free; Yoyogi Park Map
- Opens from dawn to dusk, hours should be similar to Meiji Jingu.
- Yoyogi-Kamizono-cho 2-1, Shibuya-ku Japan 151-0052
- 3 minutes walk from JR Yamanote line: Harajuku (Omotesando exit) or Chiyoda line: Yoyogi-Koen (exit 4).
- 6 to 8 minutes walk from Odakyu line: Yoyogi-Hachiman and Chiyoda Line and Fukutoshin Line: Meiji-Jingumae (Exit 2)
- From Meiji Jingu (South shrine gate near to JR Harajuku), turn right at the main street and keep walking. The park entrance of its forested section will be on your right.
Ota Memorial Museum of Art
For those who appreciate art and/or are not ready for shopping or the squeeze on Harajuku streets, you can visit Ota Memorial Museum of Art. It’s only a 5 minutes walk away from Yoyogi Park or Meiji Jingu. The small and elegant museum has a collection of about 14,000 ukiyo-e works which comprised of both nikuhitsu-ga painting and ukiyo-e wood-block prints. Exhibits change periodically, with special exhibitions held from time to time.
According to Japan-Guide.com, “Ukiyo-e (浮世絵) are Japanese woodblock prints which depict sumo wrestlers, popular geisha and kabuki actors from the world of entertainment. Ukiyo-e, literally “paintings of the floating world”, were so named because their subjects were associated with impermanence and detachment from ordinary life.”
We missed this stop due to the lack of time! :( I’ll put this on my to-go list for my next Harajuku visit.
- 10:30 am – 5:30 pm (Last Admission at 5:00 pm)
- Closed Mondays, except National Holidays (which it will then close on Tuesday)
- 1-10-10 Jingu-mae Shibuyaku Tokyo, 150-0001 Japan
- Admission fee varies according to exhibition: ¥700-1000 (S$8.80 – 12.60)(Adults); ¥ 500-700 (S$6.30-8.80)(Students)
- Directions (5 mins walk):
- From JR Yamanote line (Harajuku, Omotesando exit), Yoyogi Park, Meiji Jingu: Walk down Omotesando Street towards Meiji-Jingu metro station. Turn left after Softbank cellphone store and walk on.
- From Chiyoda Line and Fukutoshin Line (Meiji-Jingumae, exit 5): Walk down Omotesando Street. Make a right turn just before the Softbank cellphone store and walk on.
Have fun at Harajuku! More about Harajuku in ‘Takeshita Dori and Shopping | Harajuku Tokyo (Part 2)‘ and ‘From Harajuku’s Cat Street to Shibuya‘.
Do you have any questions or suggestions for Harajuku? Tell us below or on our Facebook Page or Instagram. Bookmark this page >> Overview Itinerary: Hokkaido and Tokyo (Winter/Spring 2016)