We’ve arrived in Tokyo! Joyce and I are staying in a quaint AirBnb in Shinjuku. And when I say quaint, I mean it. Picture a bunk bed — with a wobbly top bunk which I have been graced with — enough floor space to only be able to stand my suitcase up, and a bathroom which combines its shower, sink and toilet. When stepping into the bathroom, you can move the sink to cover the toilet so that you have enough room to shower, or you can slide the sink off to here shower space so that you have enough room to use the toilet.
For the bargain we’re getting, we can’t really complain. Except that the photos on AirBnb showed fluffy white duvet covers, and well, we are sleeping on stuffy brown sheets. Oh well, you can’t have it all.
It’s our first morning here and my internal clock has gone haywire (Hawaii is 19 hours behind Japan). I’ve already accepted that I’m never going to know what time it actually is and that I just need to suck it up and roll with the punches.
With all priorities in order, we start our day off with coffee. We stumble into a cute coffee shop called Blue Bottle Coffee. I enjoyed my iced coffee from NOLA and Joyce and I sat and talked and planned out our day.
From there, we decided to walk to Meiji-Jingu. The Meiji Shrine is located in Shibuya, Tokyo and is the Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.
Upon entering, we admired the immense torii gate. Standing tall at 40 feet, the torii gate is at the entrance to the 200-acre park which consists of 1,500-year-old cypress.
Torii literally translates to bird abode, and is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine (we plan on seeing A LOT of these while we’re here). Symbolically, torii gates mark the transition from the profane to the sacred.
As we strolled to the shrine, we walked through pathways and trees that resembled the likes of trails on the Pacific Northwest. And since Joyce and I both attended college in Portland, Oregon, we felt at ease. As soon as we got to the entrance of the shrine, we witnessed the first of three weddings we would see that day — beautiful, tranquil, and unlike any other wedding we had seen in the states.
Before entering, we paid our respects at a cleansing station by rinsing first our left hand, then our right, and then pouring some water into our left hand to rinse our mouth.
The shrine was pretty crowded but also silent in all the right places. Take the wall of prayers to the deceased emperor and empress, for example.
All written on little pieces of wood, this beautiful tribute featured prayers in a variety of different languages. Prayers asking for good fortune and health, prayers of gratitude, prayers about love and loss — and those were just the ones that I could read in English and somewhat recognize in Italian.
With the option to add your own prayer to the wall, visitors are also welcome to do as the locals do and toss some yen into the offering box. Walk up the steps toward the enormous taiko drum, bow your head twice, clap twice, and bow once more.
Meiji-jingu is open sunrise to sunset. Admission is free. Take the JR Yamanote line to Harajuku station to get there (but we walked :p).