Reviews of bucket-list-worthy things to do all over the world

Meiji Jingu Shrine

The light rain drops lent a mystical quality to the north entrance of Yoyogi Park. We passed under a huge wooden torii and started along the gravel path lined with trees and wooden lanterns. Far ahead of us, a lone monk raked the gravel with a broom made of skinny branches.
Rather than walk straight through Yoyogi Park to our destination, the hip neighborhood of Harajuku, we decided to make a quick detour to see Meiji Jingu Shrine, especially since the shrine was free to visit.

I cleansed my hands and mouth at the Temizuya (purification trough) while my friend guided me on how to properly do so using the instructions from a pamphlet he’d picked up at the entrance to the park. He then cleansed himself, and we entered the shrine.
Through a thick, wooden, open door was an expansive courtyard.
I walked the covered perimeter, to avoid the light rain, and eventually arrived at the Main Shrine Building where people bowed, clapped their hands together, bowed again, and then prayed.

Once the rain subsided, I entered the courtyard, where I admired the many emu (wooden prayer plaques) which people had purchased and then inscribed with their wishes. There were wishes written in many different languages. Some people had also drawn pictures.
We were about to leave when a Japanese man approached us and excitedly said, in English, “There is going to be a wedding procession!”

We decided to delay our departure. A few minutes later, as promised, a bride and groom in traditional Japanese wedding attire, accompanied by their wedding party, walked through a small stretch of the covered area of the courtyard and then disappeared from view.
Thinking that that was it, we walked to the exit. On our way, I noticed people in wedding attire in the entry plaza. They were soon joined by the bride and groom that we’d seen moments before, along with a large, bright red parasol.
The party walked slowly through the courtyard. I moved with them, maintaining a respectful distance with the other onlookers. I imagined what it would like to be the shy bride or her doting attendant.
I stayed with them until they disappeared again.

Witnessing a wedding procession wasn’t something that we’d planned, but I was glad that we’d taken the opportunity to see one. It was fascinating to glimpse something so personal, in a place with a culture so different from our own.

I did this in 2013 in Tokyo, Japan.

Jen (California, USA)

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