Many thanks for joinig our tour at Meiji Shrine and Harajuku on May 6. We had seven guests from America,Australia,Spain and Chile. Some of the guests had participated in our tour at the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace on the previous day which we appreciate very much. We all enjoyed walking at the quiet Shrine and bustling Harajuku.
Meiji Shrine looks like a natural forest but actually it was artificially designed. When the forest was created 100 years ago, the area was merely a wasteland belonging to the Imperial property. The shrine is dedicated to the souls of Emperior Meiji and Empress Shoken. Since the tomb of the Emperior was founded in his hometown Kyoto, Tokyo people were anxious to have something to worship in Tokyo where he spent most of his time and thereafter the shrine project was set up.
At the time of the construction over 100,000 trees were donated by people across the country and 10,000 volunteers contributed to the project. While the number of species was decesed from 370 to 270, the number of the trees increased to 170,000. Although the then Prime Minister Shigenobu Ohkuma wanted to have the grand trees such as cedars typically seen at Ise Shrine and Nikko Toshogu Shrine, the scholars and garden planners were strongly against the idea and insisted on the evergreen trees such as oak,chinquapin(chess nut) and camphor trees in the light of adaptability and the soil structure. Consequently the evergreen trees were chosen as the scholars advised. Some cedars and pine trees were planted but all of them disappeared over time. If cedars were chosen as the main trees as the Prime Minister wished, we would not be able to see such a beautiful forest.
Furthermore the trees as well as weeds have never been cut down or removed from the woodland. None of the trees have been deforested for the maintenance. Initially all the trees were carefully selected and distributed, and since then the grove has been left in the natural conditions. As you see the shrine staff everyday clean and sweep up the fallen leaves at the shrine approach, all of them will return inside the forest. Currently there are 170,000 trees with 270 species of plants and small animals which make up a ecosystem. It is quite rare for a forest with the size of 70 hectare to preserve an ecosystem without any human involvement in the the world.
All the trees at Meiji Shrine were artificially planted 100 years ago. Although they have been untouched by human hands, it is amazing that they remain beautiful and magnificent. These trees will continue to flourish for another hundreds of years in the heart of Tokyo. Please join us and you may be able to find something new with us.
(posted by Yoshi)