From Wednesday, December 11th through Monday, December 16th (Tokyo time), I was in Japan with my mom and other members of the Cambridge Community Chorus of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Following are some of the many pictures I took during that time.
Click any thumbnail to see the bigger version of that picture. The majority of these pictures are 800x600 pixels in size. Unless otherwise indicated, all pictures were taken with my Hewlett-Packard Photosmart 315 digital camera.

Meiji Shrine

On Friday (Day Three), I went with my mom and another chorus member to the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto temple and shrine and garden created in honor of Emperor Meiji (1868-1912) and his wife Empress Haruko.

The Shrine

At the entrance to the shrine grounds is this huge wooden gate, called a torii. These gates are common at Japanese shrines and temples.

I'm not sure what this little structure is for, but we saw a lot of them.

My mom (left) and Penny (right) studying a map of the shrine/garden area.

A No Smoking sign along the long, wide path leading to the shrine.

I'm not sure what these things are either, but they seemed to have them at every shrine/temple.

A closer look at the barrels (or whatever) in the previous picture.

An even closer look.

The entrance to the shrine. This building is not actually the shrine/temple itself, but a guardhouse or gatehouse leading into the temple courtyard.

One of the side doors on the gatehouse. We were told that the four round buttons or studs on the door are an ancient code meaning that the occupants of the temple will feed and house any traveler who happens by. Some Japanese houses have this symbol on their doors as well.

At one side of the courtyard is a huge tree surrounded by this wooden gate hung with small pieces of wood. For a small fee you can buy a piece of wood, write your wishes or prayers on it, and hang it here. The priests of the temple will then include your wishes in their daily prayers. It's hard to tell from this picture, but we saw votive messages written in many languages and conveying many different desires -- some heartfelt and moving, some humorous, some simply bizarre.

A closer look at the sign explaining what I just explained above.

While we were visiting the temple, this wedding procession went by. They proceeded along one side of the walkway and into the private temple area.

A closer, but blurrier, look at the wedding procession. The woman in the big white headdress is the bride.

These water-blessing pavilions are common outside the entrances to temples. You use a dipper to scoop up some water, which you touch to your hands and lips for cleansing before you enter the temple.

The Garden

The garden area of the Meiji Shrine was designed by Empress Haruko, who liked to spend a lot of time there. Her iris garden is world-renowned and supposedly very beautiful when all the irises are in bloom. Unfortunately it was winter when we visited, so there were no irises, but the gardens were still beautiful.

I was greatly amused by this sign at the entrance to the garden, which shows you which direction to walk, and says simply, "Way."

This elegant structure is actually designed to support a damaged or elderly tree. It's hard to tell from this picture, but the system of ropes and bamboo helps to hold the tree up and keep it from collapsing.

According to signs, this building was a tea-house in which the empress could relax while looking out at the pond shown in the previous and next pictures.

Penny (left) and my mom (right) saying hi to the fish in the pond. At left you can see a bit of the same tree-supporting structure shown two pictures ago.

The fish were clearly used to being fed by tourists. They came right up to the jetty and stuck their open mouths out of the water.

Closer view of the fish.

As you head back toward where you started, signs tell you how to continue exploring the gardens ("Way") or how to leave ("Way Out").

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joan the english chick
last updated 31 January 2003