Monday, June 6, 2011


Magokoro ~ sincere heart ~ is one the virtues and values of Shinto, Japan's ancient oriental religion with no founder, no book, and no concept of conversion. In Shinto, the divinity is found in divine spirits (Kami), held in awe and respect and to whom they build Shinto shrines.

The Meiji Jingu shrine in Shibuya is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperior Meiji (1852-1912) and Empress Shoken. Their tombs are in Kyoto. The shrine was established in 1920 when volunteers planted 100,000 trees collected from all over Japan and overseas creating what is now a huge self-sustaining forest of 700,000 sq metres (yes, I'm reading the little brochure) containing the shrine and some very beautiful gardens, notably the Iris garden which comes into flower in June. Each day the number of flowering Irises is counted. It's nearly 20% she said as I paid my 500 yen and escaped the heat into the shade of the pathways leading off like a wandering maze through bamboo and azaleas.

Emperor Meiji was the 22nd emperor of Japan and the great-grandfather of the current Emperor. He opened Japan up to the world and introduced the West while preserving Japanese identity, laying the foundations of modern Japan. The Empress was concerned with women's issues, world affairs, the Red Cross and the Japanese find her sincere heart expressed in the Waka (traditional 31 syllable poems) she was fond of writing. You can lucky-dip an Empress Waka for 100 yen, and although I've been on the Sake, I'm sure there's more than 31 syllables - the translation I guess.

"If we but recall
That we may go astray
We shall be most careful
In every trifling act."

The shrine is a reasonable walk from our hotel, past NHK (the National Broadcaster) and a sports complex, and it is the first place I always visit.

Women in traditional dress approach the temple and shelter in the shade.

This woman was being photographed by two photographers (and a lot of others).

The Iris garden - they are growing in moving water which you can see bubbling in near the post next to the man with the bag.

Whenever I hear the word 'Kami', the cry "O Kami, O Kami" reflexly floods my thoughts. Coincidentally, well not coincidentally but entirely appropriately, Madama Butterfly is set in the Meiji era. She had sincere heart.

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