We set out on the tenth day with two main objectives: visiting the Imperial Palace and the Meiji shrine.
The Imperial Palace grounds are pretty massive, in the middle of Tokyo, not too far from out hotel. It was easy to take the subway and exit right in front of our destination. We had to do a lot of walking, of course. There was also a moat of sorts surrounding the grounds, where gorgeous swans can be seen. I loved how you got a glimpse of old meeting new, where the skyscrapers met the flat grounds, dotted with ancient architecture. We retreated deeper into the grounds, leaving the hustle and bustle of downtown Tokyo.
Massive stones that were once the walls protecting the palace grounds, can be seen all over. While the Imperial family still resides here, the walls have been replaced with greater means of modern security.
We walked a straight line from the subway exit right up to the Imperial Palace. There is a popular viewing point in which we stopped, since we saw many others there too, that enabled us to finally get a glimpse of the Imperial Palace–or what we though was it. Turns out that the view is really of Fushimi-yagura with the famous Nijubashi bridge in front. The whole time we though it was the actual palace! We did not reserve the tour ahead of time, so we were unable to tour the inner grounds and therefore see the actual Imperial Palace. Fushimi-yagura is actually a watchtower. It was still an lovely view, nonetheless, and I decided to sit down and take it all in. I fell in love with Japanese architecture even more.
We decided then that we would start making our way to Meiji-jingu, inside Yoyogi Park next to Harajuku. On the walk to a different train station, we came across more of the watchtowers and even the gardens that you could walk through for free. We started to try that, then realized just how large the gardens were and how hot it was outside and decided against it.
We took the train to Harajuku and came out on the side of Yoyogi Park, not very far from the Meiji-jingu entrance. At the entrance we were greeted by the largest torii gate we had ever seen. The torii gates are made from 1500-year-old Taiwanese cypress and such a beauty to behold! This was probably the most forest-like park of all the Tokyo parks so far. Trees towering even above the torii gate, making a tunnel of sorts for the visitors to walk under towards the shrine. It definitely helped shade us from the sun. It was a decent walk from the entrance to the shrine, feeling like forever since we had already been walking a lot for a while now, but at least we weren’t dripping sweat. We passed picturesque sake barrels and wine casks, gifts to the shrine, and then we arrived upon yet another towering torii gate; I felt like an ant beside it.
The shrine itself was modestly beautiful and upon entering, I turn to Colt and mention my wish that we see a traditional wedding. Little did I know that literally ten seconds later I would get my wish! The bride was absolutely stunning in her traditional wedding gown, although I wonder how hot she must have been because it looked rather heavy. The bride and groom were taking their pictures (I assume the wedding itself was over). We watched the happy couple for a few minutes, then decided to continue on throughout the shrine, admiring the architecture and watching people perform the customary rituals for praying. It left me with chills to see these people bowing and clapping.
After departing and making the long walk back to the entrance, we decided on Takeshita-dori since Colt had yet to visit it. We didn’t linger long, and headed back to the hotel early in order to rest some. We did in fact stop at a Starbucks where I was able to add another mug to my insane collection!
This was yet another one of my favorite days in Japan, but certainly not the last!
Stay tuned for the last three days!