Meiji Shrine#2 in Best Things To Do in Tokyo
The Meiji Shrine is a Shinto (Japan's original religion) shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Japanese history credits Meiji for modernizing Japan by incorporating Western principles into Japanese society, including adopting a cabinet system into government. After the emperor's death in 1912 and that of his consort in 1914, the Japanese commemorated their contributions with the Meiji Shrine. While the buildings are certainly worth visiting, the surrounding forest (considered part of the vast Yoyogi Park) is a sight to see as well. That's because 100,000 of the trees standing were all donated by Japanese people from around the country as a thank you to emperor.
While at such a holy site, take time to divulge in traditional rituals. When entering the shrine, you'll first meet the Torii, or the shrine's large archway. It's traditional to bow once entering then again when you leave. To foreigners, the temizuya may appear to be a drinking fountain, but it's actually a cleansing station where visitors have the opportunity to purify themselves with holy water. It's common to wash your hands and rinse your mouth out, but don't drink the water or allow the wooden dippers provided to touch your lips. When approaching the main shrine, it's customary to pay your respects by bowing twice, then clapping your hands twice, make a wish and bow once again. Carrying out such respects are optional, the rules of the shrine are not. Don't photograph the interior of the buildings; don't eat, drink or smoke unless you're in designated areas.
Travelers say that while this is not the most striking of temples they have seen, it is by far the most peaceful and welcoming. Visitors appreciated that the shrine encouraged foreigners to participate in traditional rituals and prayer service (with instructions posted on how to join in within the attraction). Even if you don't choose to participate in prayer, reviewers say a visit here is worth it to observe the Shinto practices, as it better helped them understand Japanese culture as a whole. The Meiji Shrine and its surrounding forests are also incredibly serene, with many visitors saying it was the perfect place for a much-needed break from the concrete jungle. While here, visitors encourage travelers to write down a personal prayer or wish and tie it to the prayer wall (as pictured) to commemorate your experience at the shrine.
The closest metro stations to the Meiji Shrine are the Harajuku station and the Kita-Sando Station. The shrine is free to visit and welcomes visitors from sunrise to sunset every day, but the individual building maintains varied hours. For more information, check out the Meiji Shrine's website.
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#1 Tokyo National Museum
If you're looking to learn a little (or a lot) about Japan's history, the Tokyo National Museum is the place to go. This museum is one of the country's most expansive, housing about 116,000 pieces of art and artifacts that cover the longest recorded history of Japan. Strolling through the halls of its numerous buildings, you'll spot relics such as samurai armor and swords (a traveler favorite), delicate pottery, kimonos, calligraphy, paintings, and much more, some of which are designated as national treasures and Important Cultural Properties by the Japanese government. In addition to artifacts from Japan's history, you'll also find pieces from all across the Asian continent, including Buddhist scrolls that date all the way back to 607.
Travelers were impressed with all that the Tokyo National Museum has to offer. Even some who admitted they aren't museum people enjoyed the variety of unique artifacts on display. Travelers appreciated that the museum featured English translations, something that some visitors noticed other Tokyo top attractions lacked (think the Ghibli Museum). Museum goers also say that there so much to see in the Tokyo National Museum that you probably need an entire day if you want to get through everything. If you don't have enough time to do this (or just don't want to) the best thing to do is get a map of the museum beforehand and pick what you want to do before you venture in.
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