When in Japan recently, I visited Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine near Shibuya, dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken and established in 1920. Surrounded by a forest of thousands of trees threaded through with peaceful streams, the shrine area is a sacred sanctuary in the heart of Tokyo.
Poetry is also at the heart of Meiji Jingu. Both Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken were poets, writing the traditional waka, Japanese poems of 31 syllables (5-7-5-7-5-7). The divine virtues of the Emperor and Empress are celebrated through their poetry.
Visitors can draw a poem from 20 specially selected poems, with English translation and explanation, from the “Omikuji” (poem drawing) box in front of the main shrine building. It is a special way of keeping the spirit of the Emperor and Empress alive in the shrine itself through their poetry.
‘Ever downwards water flows,
But mirrors lofty mountains;
How fitting that our heart also
Be humble, but reflect high aims.’
– Empress Shoken –
More information about the shrine and the Waka poetry by Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken can be found here: “About Meiji Jingu“.