Japan PM Visits Meiji Shrine

Japan’s prime minister has visited Tokyo’s main Shinto shrine, which has strong imperial connections, in an apparent attempt to appeal to his right-wing supporters.

Shinzo Abe, who recently started his second stint as Japan’s leader, visited the Meiji shrine today, becoming the first premier to do so since his 2007 visit. The shrine commemorates Emperor Meiji, a symbol of Japan’s militarisation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Abe has said he hopes to visit the Yasukuni war shrine, which honours war criminals among others. His visit to the Meiji shrine could be a move to avoid angering China, which has expressed concerns about Abe’s rightist policies.

Japan’s World War II government used Shinto as an official religion to push militarism and waged war in the emperor’s name.


The Shrines of General Nogi and the Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shokan

The serenity of General Nogi’s shrine overwhelmed me. It is nestled amongst the concrete jungle of the city. It’s an oasis of peace and calm and filled with landscaped grounds. The silence was broken by the occasional shuffling of feet or the chirping of birds. Two huge sets of Torii and guardian lions lead the way to his shrine. The son of a samurai family he pursued a military career culminating in his victory over the Russians.

On site is a small museum dedicated to preserving his memory. On exhibit are his rifles, saddle, medals, gold watches, and a myriad of photographs and scrolls/citations.

Regrettably, there isn’t much information available in English but don’t let that stop you from visiting the Nogi Shrine.  There is a plaque however in English and Japanese describing his house and stables. He was very proud of his horses. There’s a walkway wrapped around his house that lets you peak inside. It sounds morbid, doesn’t it? It’s a little eerie to say the least. His house has been left as is.

The grounds are lovely, immaculate, and inviting, and are a testament to Japanese gardening. The shrine and its surroundings, I found, express an inherent Japanese sensibility, which is bestowing honour amongst its beloved.

Two stops away on the Tozai line is the Meiji shrine. It’s definitely worth a visit. It’s situated amidst a beautiful park and wood lots. It’s breathtaking and evoking the splendor and glory of Japan’s former emperor who was at the helm of its transformation into a powerful, modern nation along with his devoted General Nogi. The Toriis marking the way to the Meiji shrine are imposing. They must be the tallest in the land. The grounds are immaculate. I thought the park must be an oasis for the people of Tokyo from the stress of city life.

There’s a plaque along the way to the shrine that cites a poem of Emperor Meiji, which hints at his essence. Here it is:

By gaining the good and rejecting what is wrong, it is our desire that we’ll compare favourably with other lands abroad.
Poem by Emperor Meiji

Emperor Meiji was a shining light in the modernization of his country by embracing Western ways and customs. He cut off his topknot and donned Western clothes.

The soul of the Meiji emperor and his consort’s are enshrined here. If you wish, for 500 Yen, you can purchase a votive plaque, an ema, and write out a wish or wishes, which are then offered up by the Shinto priests.

I walked over to the Treasure House, which houses artifacts belonging to the Emperor and his Empress. Regrettably, it was closed today. Perhaps, I thought I’ll get another chance to visit. Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed my visits to the Meiji and Nogi Shrines and came away with a deeper understanding of Japanese history.

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.