“At the Meiji Shrine”

Tokyo, Japan. November 2018 – February 2019 (20 photos)

This is part 12 of my Japan 2018-19 photo series.

In my previous post, Tokyo Life, we saw the eclectic side of life in Tokyo. Now let’s take a look into some of the temples and shrines I visited in Tokyo. There are many temples and shrines of differing size and significance scattered throughout the city. This is my glimpse into Tokyo zen…

One of Tokyo’s best known and popular shrines is Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. I visited in winter, a day after it had been snowing and covered in snow (above) the buildings and grounds of the shrine had a more serene ambience than when I visited previously in autumn.

“Meiji Moments”

Walking towards the shrine I was struck by the simple beauty of the shadows of trees falling across this sign.

Meiji Shrine is located in an evergreen forest that covers an area of 70 hectares (170 acres) consisting of 120,000 trees of 365 different species, which were donated by people from all parts of Japan when the shrine was established. It is an oasis situated between the urban areas of Shibuya, Shinjuku and Harajuku.


At every temple and shrine in Japan you will find a Chozuya, or Temizuya which often looks like a small shrine but is a water feature where visitors purify themselves before worshipping. There is a specific ritual to follow, which is actually quite simple, even a child can do it.

“Young girl at the Meiji”

I went up to the girl’s mother and requested to take a photo of her daughter. She graciously called out to her daughter to come and pose for me.

“Not exactly Abbey Road”

On Sundays the Meiji shrine essentially becomes Wedding Central. During my time there on 2 separate Sundays, I saw 7 different but very traditional wedding processions.

“Wedding no. 7”

“Wedding no. 3”

“When the professional photographer isn’t looking…”

Of course, they all then have photos taken in the area. The candid moments are often the best.

“Butterflies are free and so is she”

The Hie Shrine is located in Akasaka near the centre of Tokyo, near the National Diet Building. This little girl was having some photos taken of her. I pity the professional photographer who had his hands full trying to keep her interest and stopping her from just running around and playing.

“Mother knows best”

“The torii gates of Hie”

The Hie Shrine holds 14 important cultural assets, but photographically its main point of interest is the relatively lesser known rear entrance, a stairway of torii gates. Torii gates are a feature of Shinto shrines and act to divide our world and the spirit (kami) world. Torii gates mark the entrance to a place where the spirits hear your prayers.

“Hikawa Shrine, Koenji”

Many shrines have an area for wooden plaques to display wishes and prayers. In the suburban area of Koenji the small Hikawa Shrine has plaques that look like Japanese sandals, not surprising given the type of shops they have nearby.

“The Tower Gate of Nezu”

The Nezu Shrine is a Shinto shrine located in the Bunkyo ward of Tokyo. Established in 1705, it is one of the oldest places of worship in the city, and several of the buildings on the shrine grounds have been designated as Important Cultural Property.

“The torii gates of Nezu”

One of the most famous features of the Nezu shrine is the path of vermilion torii gates through the hillside left of the main hall.

“The vermilion tunnel”

In the middle of the path there is a viewing platform over a pond of koi, overlooking the main shrine precincts.

“The winter gardens of Nezu”

Nezu Shrine is also famous for its Azalea Festival (Tsutsuji Matsuri) which is held on its grounds from early April until early May. It has been described as “Tokyoโ€™s most beautiful shrine” and as one the city’s “most spectacular spring scenes”.

“Bathing in incense”

At many temples, such as Shinobazunoike Bentendo Temple, the so called floating temple of Ueno, there are large incense burners. Worshippers fan the smoke of the incense over themselves as a purification and healing gesture.

“Above Senso-ji”

Sensล-ji is an ancient Buddhist temple located in Asakusa. It is Tokyo’s oldest temple, and one of its most significant. From above you can identify the Kaminarimon or “Thunder Gate” at the front, then the Nakamise-dori with its shops, followed by the Hozomon or “Treasure House Gate” which provides the entrance to the inner complex. Within the precincts stand a five-story pagoda and the main hall.

“The Main Hall of Senso-ji”

“Kimono girls”

Because of its historic significance the Senso-ji tends to be one of the more popular temples in Japan and the human crush of visitors is quite evident, many of whom are dressed up in kimonos.

This is part 12 of my Japan 2018-19 photo series.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Tokyo Zen


73 thoughts on “Tokyo Zen

  1. My god, this series is getting better and better.
    I love such rituals, and esp how you captured that little girl.
    120,000 trees, you say. I’m moving there. I could comfortably live among those trees.

  2. Marvelous photos! I like the human interest stories behind some of these photos, especially the ones with children. This Japan series is a great achievement for you.

    • Thank you very much. I just wish I could speak better Japanese because most people are so friendly, but I make do using a few key phrases in the google translate app on my phone.

    • Thanks, Jane. I know you would have enjoyed the serenity and sights of the numerous shrines in Tokyo and Japan during your own visit.
      Sometimes I take photos and a title for the photo springs immediately to mind. This was the case for “Abbey Road.” I’m guessing this happens to you as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Yes, loved the shrines and visited many of the famous ones that you saw. I agree- captions often ring in my head when I am taking a photo. ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad you had such a great trip. I would love to go back to Japan sometime. And Australia, and… ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Well the cherry blossoms have started in Japan which has me thinking about next year, possibly. But in the meantime Europe may be calling. ๐Ÿ™‚ So many places I want to go to…

  3. I like how you always add your experience and the culture background with the photos.
    BTW, if a stranger asked to take a photo of my daughter, i’d be nervous to let him.

    • Thank you very much. I understand your last point but in this case, I was talking to the girl’s mother about other things when I decided to ask to photograph her daughter. Just a casual request with no risk of offence to me if she declined.

  4. I like the photos of the weddings at the Meiji Jingu shrine. I’d seen these on my first visit to Japan, and I’d forgotten all about them until now. I must see if I have any photos from thirty years ago.

    That’s a wonderful perspective on Nakamise Dori. I never know whether one should try to enter random buildings in Japan. Or did you find a restaurant somewhere high up?

    • I hope you do have some photos from back then. Whilst I only saw the processions, the traditional element was fascinating to witness and a reminder of a different time.

      On the other side of the road from the Thunder Gate of the Senso-ji is the Asakusa Tourist Centre. It may not have been there when you visited but on the top floor is a free outdoor observation deck and cafe.

  5. Arigatล for this post. I was quite relaxed until I ended up back in the city at the end, but I forgive you for the beauty, peace, and whimsy of the rest. ๐Ÿ™‚ Lovely, lovely shots, Lignum, and a bright spot in my already good day.


    • My pleasure. The temples and shrines are a great respite from the big city, despite being in the middle of it all. Senso-ji just happens to be too popular with the tourists.

  6. Lovey visit to a number of shrines and temples. It is quite something the locals wearing kimonos. That last shot is full of color, all color blending well together.

  7. Such sweet photos of those little girls, and what luck to see so many weddings. Thereโ€™s something special about Asian shrines- instant serenity whenever I have the chance To step inside one. Beautiful photos, as always.

  8. Heide says:

    What a gift you have for immersing yourself totally in other cultures! From your photos it’s clear that the people around you were 100% comfortable with your presence. The result is these beautiful images, which are intimate portraits of spiritual life, but also respectful of the rituals and deep tradition you were witnessing. Gorgeous work, Mr. Draco.

      • Heide says:

        Respect is paramount, indeed โ€” and it can be conveyed through eye contact and body language even when you don’t have the words. You’re setting a great example for your readers in how to be good travelers and good ambassadors for their own cultures.

  9. Extraordinary piece of art you present here, Draco, thank you. Incredible aspects of the spiritual facet of Japan. Your gift for people and perspective is profound, my friend. My favorite here, though I liked every single photo, was “Rituals,” the father with his two daughters at the Temizuyu; though I also loved the Zen spirit of the tree shadows on the sign, “Meiji Moments.” Also, the intimacy you captured in the bride and groom in “When the professional photographer….”

    • I found many of the shrines and temples to be enthralling places and spent a lot longer in them than I thought I would. I enjoy just observing and capturing scenes such as these. Memories to treasure. Thank you as always.

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