To get here the fastest/cheapest way by train, enter your starting location into the
or download a free Japan Travel mobile app to your phone (I use Navitime Japan Travel)
•Take the train to Harajuku station.
•In the station, follow the yellow signs to the Omotesando exit. It will be the one at the end of the platform, not the one in the middle.
•Go out the exit and continue past the end of the station (to the right) and you’ll see a huge pedestrian structure for crossing the intersection. Don’t go up the stairs. Keep to the right (skirting the pedestrian structure), go over the wide stone bridge to your right, and as the road curves around to the right, ahead you will see the huge dark wood torii (giant pi-shaped gate) that’s the entrance to the shrine grounds.
•Walk down the wide gravel path that leads to the shrine.
On the way to the main shrine buildings, take a short detour to see the Nai-en Garden.
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Closed on the third Friday of each month
The entrance to the gardens is along the gravel path, between the second giant unpainted torii gate and the main gate. If you’re visiting it before seeing the shrine, it’ll be on your left. The Nai-en garden was a favorite strolling place of the Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken. There is a big koi pond with waterlilies, and off to the right, a path leads to the Minami-ike Shobuda iris garden, with over 150 species of iris that bloom at the beginning of June.
Return to the path leading to the shrine.
On your left as you approach the main gate, there will be a large rectangular basin with dippers to purify your hands and mouth. As a non-Japanese visitor it’s okay if you don’t do this. But if you decide to show your respect in this way, be sure you carefully watch how other people do it before you step up and grab a dipper. Above all, never drink directly from the dipper – always pour the water into your hand and drink from that!
After you visit the shrine, go see what’s in the Treasure House. It has exhibits that change frequently, including kimono that were worn by the Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken for court occasions. Portraits of every emperor for the past thousand years are on permanent display.
How to get to the Treasure House from the main courtyard of the shrine:
•With your back to the main gate, go through the gateway to your right and walk past the hall where they hold weddings and shrine dances.
•Keep left on the path that leads away from the shrine. It will dead end in another path. Turn left and follow that path all the way to the treasure house. You’ll cross a bridge over a big pond on your way.
Yearly Special Events at the Meiji Shrine
•Saturdays and Sundays are when weddings generally take place.
•Shrine sales are held on the first, fourth, and fifth Sundays of each month.
•New Year’s Day (1/1-1/3): Everybody comes to visit the shrine wearing formal kimono
•Coming of Age Day (second Monday): 20-year-old women come to the shrine in formal, bright, very expensive, kimono to celebrate officially becoming adults. There are usually ice sculptures at this event too.
• Setsubun (2/3 or 2/4): Bean-throwing ceremony
• Iris season: the Nai-en garden is famous for its June iris display.
• Weddings: this is the high season for weddings at the Meiji Shrine
•Shichi-Go-San (11/15): At the “7-5-3” ceremony, families with children at these special ages flock to the shrine for pictures, all dressed in their finest kimono. The children are dressed in particularly splendid attire. Although the actual day is the 15th, many families visit the shrine in all their finery during the two weeks leading up to the actual day of the ceremony.
•Chrysanthemum season: Big competitive chrysanthemum exhibits featuring chrysanthemum bonsai and huge perfect specimens of various famous varieties.
While you’re in Japan, read a novel set in Tokyo!