Shinjuku Gyoen & Meiji Shrine

My legs were sore, tiny bolts of electricity danced through my calves with every step I took. The pedometer in my iPhone calculated had just hit 9 miles today almost on par with the 10 I walked yesterday. The line graph since Sejan's arrival jutted high like a mountain, towering above the days spent at home. I was spending my time in Tokyo more like a vacation and less like a natural part of my everyday life.

When you travel with someone you have to make sure that you have similar travel styles. Good friends do not always make good travel partners. On vacation Sejan moves at a lightning pace, routinely walking a mile in the mornings before I had even woken up. Meanwhile, I like to slow down, stretch out the hours until I melt into the local vibrations. Despite the difference in our speeds Sejan and I made great travel buddies because we care a lot about good food, taking amazing pictures, and being efficient. 

 Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is an oasis in the middle of hectic, chaotic, and busy Shinjuku. Rows of gorgeous award winning roses. Gardens designed in French, Japanese, and English styles. And large open spaces - perfect for a picnic greet you inside this haven. I had seen so many beautiful photos here and I couldn't wait to capture some of my own. Green houses have always been a love of mine because they represent a liminal space allowing flowers to grow in spaces and times when they would normally die. 

During the Edo Period, Shinjuku Gyoen served as the home of the feudal lord of Tokyo. In 1903 it was transfered to the Imperial Family, but it wasn't until 1949 that it was opened as a public park after almost being destroyed during World War II. World War II always seemed so far away when I learned about it in school. However, living in Tokyo has made me realize the scars countries have beared from the brutal conflict and how much important cultural history was almost lost.

After wandering around Shinjuku Gyoen Sejan and I headed towards Meiji Shrine. If I had been by myself I would have walked back home after enjoying a delicious bowl of ramen, however, Sejan was on a mission and so we hoped on the train and headed to our next destination.

Now, I didn't mean to save the shrine dedicated to the father of modern Japan for when Sejan arrived. I actually tried to explore Meiji shrine my third week but I got lost in Yoyogi Park. I assumed that since the two shared grounds that you could walk from one to the other. However, after many attempts- I gave up. On my way out of Yoyogi I happened upon a group of rockabillies and it was then that I realized that Yoyogi and Meiji have different entrances. 


The shrine itself was completed in 1920, eight years after Emperor Meiji had passed. Interestingly enough he took the throne when he was only 15 years old. The grounds start with a large wooden gate and a wide road. The road eventually brings you to the sake barrels that you see above. These are donated every year as an offering. As you continue down the wooded trail the sounds and sights of Tokyo fall away and you forget that you are in a city. 

Deep in the forrest sits the Meiji Shrine which was unfortunately under renovations in the ramp up to the 2020 Olympics. So I didn't get any good photos of the shrine itself but I loved wandering around all the altars and cleansing stations.  Despite my exhaustion I was happy to be sharing my time in Tokyo with someone that I've known for so long.


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