One of the stone arch bridges in the Meiji shrine's forest, with sunlight dancing on layers of dense greenery behind.
Wandering around the paths of Meiji shrine's forest, it is easy to forget that one is in the heart of one of world's busiest cities.
With its namesake Shinto shrine and the Gyoen imperial gardens incorporated in its vast area, this forest was created in honor of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken as a place for their souls to dwell in after they passed away in 1912 and 1914.
With 100 000 saplings of different varieties from all over Japan, the grounds were carefully planted by hand to form an eternal forest that recreates itself. Today, the saplings have both matured and reproduced, creating layers upon layers of luxurious green that reach to the sun and sway gently in the wind, muffling effectively the sounds of the daily Tokyo life around. Edited as the forest is - most of the trees are pruned so skillfully that it takes a lot of observing to detect it - there is an air of remarkable tranquility, or even wilderness, while walking under the vast canopies.
According to Shinto belief Kami, the divine spirit, can be found in mythology, nature and in human beings. Rather generously, the number of these spirits is unlimited, which explains the many Shinto temples from the tiniest to the huge that form such an integral part of the Japanese landscape. With a magnificent resting place as this, I can imagine not just the Emperor's and Empress's souls wandering around the forest of Meiji shrine, but also countless little other Kamis fluttering around the sakura blossoms and newly sprung leaves of the Japanese maples.
The inner yard at the Meiji Jingu (which means shrine in Japanese), with a large camphor tree on the left.
The Meiji shrine is a popular venue for Shinto weddings; while we visited, a wedding party entered the shrine, all dressed in beautiful traditional Japanese clothes.
Another camphor tree, surrounded by a wall of prayers left by visitors.
A teahouse in Gyoen, the imperial garden, with strictly pruned mounds of azaleas in front.
In the Azalea garden, large arching shrubs were already starting to bloom.
Emperor Meiji designed the Gyoen garden, and Empress Shoken enjoyed fishing in this large pond. I wonder how she fished - with a rod and worms? Somehow, a fishing Empress is a funny but quite sympathetic thought...
View from the further end of the large pond - with large Japanese maples sending out their delicate branches above the water.
The Iris Garden, containing over 1500 plants of 150 varieties in different blue shades... when in bloom in early to mid June, they form a river of flowers - surely an amazing sight that I would love to see one day. (mental note: would love to build a river of irises in my garden, some day.)
One of the walkways in the shadow of the century old, now mature trees of the Meiji Jingu's forest.