Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine in the heart of Yoyogi Park, Shinjuku, posthumously dedicated to the Emperor Meiji (1852-1912) and the Empress Shoken. Founded in 1920, the shrine is contained within a forest of 170,000 trees, planted by locals to honor the royal couple.
A serene place to visit at any time of year, the Meiji Shrine becomes a hive of activity during certain months as several important ceremonies and events are held here. One of the biggest and most anticipated of these events is the Aki-no-Taisai, the Grand Autumn Festival.
For several days around the beginning of November (usually November 1st to 3rd), Tokyo celebrates the anniversary of Emperor Meiji’s birthday with a whole program of exciting events and exhibitions. The festival is an opportunity to celebrate with the locals and see a whole range of traditional and classical Japanese performances and martial art displays.
You can expect to see performances of Japanese classical dance, Noh theater (masked theater), and traditional Japanese music. Special exhibitions are set up in front of the main shrine buildings to honor the deities and include a flower arrangement exhibition and the presentation of rice wine, sweets and other Japanese specialties from all over Japan. A large display of chrysanthemum flowers is also on show on the main approach to the shrine.
Day three of the festival has a fascinating line-up of Japanese martial arts including an archery tournament, Sumo rituals, Aikido Enbu and Kobudo (old-style martial arts and fire-arms) performances, an archery ceremony and the incredible Yabusame (horseback archery).
Visitors should check the Meiji Jingu Shrine website www.meijijingu.or.jp for more information.