Japan is really an astounding country. We’ve rambled on and on about all the incredible food we’ve eaten, the shiny and soaring buildings and peacefulness exuded by the people we encounter. This serenity also manifests itself in the two Shinto shrines we visited — the Meiji Shrine and the Ikuta Shrine.
The Meiji Shrine, in the Shibuya neighborhood of area of Tokyo, was constructed between 1915 and 1926 to celebrate Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken who are widely respected for advancing the country on all fronts: politically, socially, and industrially. By the time the Emperor passed in 1915, Japan grew to become the world power that it remains today. At the Shrine, we slowly ambled around the gardens, wished for a sip from the barrels of sake donated every year to honor the late Emperor, witnessed a well orchestrated wedding photo shoot, cleansed ourselves at the temizuya, bowed at the central sanctuary and offered a prayer on an Ema or votive tablet. We were lucky that the Ikuta Shrine was only a couple blocks from our hotel in Kobe so although our visits were brief, they were frequent. This shrine was dedicated to Wakahirume and is believed to be one of the oldest shrines in Japan. The Shrine, surrounded by many modern buildings, was a welcome place of solace in the bustling city with its stunning colors and resplendent façade. While not as massive as the Meiji Shrine, the Ikuta shrine acted as an ongoing reminder of the area’s heritage and tradition.