We were on a bus called a Hato Bus, stopping and looking at various places throughout central Tokyo, and I was practically jumping out of my seat with excitement because when in Tokyo, you want to see the sights of Tokyo, yeah?
First stop: Meiji jingu or the Meiji Shrine is a Shinto temple dedicated to the spirits of the Emperor Meiji (he of the Meiji Restoration and a big figure in Japanese history) and his empress Shoken. The shrine was built after Meiji's death in 1912, destroyed by bombing during WWII, and subsequently rebuilt.
The Meiji shrine is in the middle of 170 acres of parkland in one of the busiest parts of Tokyo.
|On the path to the shrine: sake drums!|
|Also, French wine barrels.|
|Haiku written by the Emperor Meiji|
|Torii gate leading to the shrine|
Our second stop: the East Gardens (Higashi Gyoen) of the Imperial grounds (the kyuden), the east gardens being the only part of the imperial grounds open to the public. The Emperor and Empress of Japan live in the midst of Tokyo, in a huge compound surrounded by a moat.
The grounds include the Imperial Household Agency, archives, a museum, and other buildings.
The site of the Imperial palace grounds was, in the Edo period, the site of Edo Castle, home of the shogun (the samurai warlord leader of Japan for centuries). When the Emperor Meiji took on power from the last shogun, he moved the imperial capital from Kyoto to Tokyo and ordered the shogun out of Edo Castle, building a new palace on the site.
Edo Castle and many of its structures burned in a fire in 1873 and the original imperial palace was built in a different part of the grounds. But then it was destroyed in a bombing raid in 1945, so the current imperial palace was built in the 1960s.
The East Garden, however, contains a huge rock wall around the site that dates from the 1600s! It was there during the shogunate and was part of the Edo Castle structure.
The current Emperor of Japan is Akihito. Since at least the Meiji Era, each emperor's reign corresponds to an "era" in Japanese culture. Akihito's father Hirohito's reign is called the Showa period, which was long enough to mean that me, my mother, and my grandmother were all Showa babies.
|A reconstruction of an Edo era gate, where the shogun's men would've met you before you entered Edo Castle.|
|Part of the East garden.|