The famous shrine, Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu), is located in the heart of Tokyo. Right next to Harajuku station, is the grounds of the shrine. It spreads across 700 square kilometers, with grand trees, rivers, memorials, and of course the shrine buildings.
The entrance is marked by a torii, a gate that is seen on entrances of Shinto shrines. Once you walk past (under) the torii, you will find a wide gravel road that wanders off into the forest. As you keep walking, you will reach two more torii, and at last, the shrine. People come to shrines to pray for health, luck, or to greet the God. Most visitors buy an omikuji, a piece of paper with a fortune written on it. You can also buy charms called omamori that will protect you and give you good luck. There are a number of omamori from which you can choose, including health, academic luck, luck for job hunting, and luck for safe childbirth. Many people buy their family or friends these charms to wish them good luck.
Before you pray at a Shinto shrine, you must wash your hands at the Temizuya. You use a cup with a stick on it (like a ladle) and pour water onto your left hand, right hand, and again your left hand. If you want to rinse your mouth, pour the water into your left hand so that your mouth does not have to touch the cup. When you have finished, hold the stick up right and let the remaining water pour down the stick. When you walk up to the main shrine, throw a coin into the box in front of you. Then, bow twice, clap twice, pray or say grace, then bow once when you have finished.
Meiji Shrine was built as a dedication to Emperor Meiji and his companion, Empress Shoken in 1920. The thousands of trees were offered from places all over Japan and also from overseas, in honor of the Emperor and Empress. After nearly one hundred years, the trees have become a forest, indistinguishable from a real natural forest. It is now a natural habitat for many plants and animals, and an essential part of a diverse eco-system. Once you are in the grounds of the Meiji Shrine, the sound of cars and voices fade away, and the air is cool, so if you want to escape the busy streets of Tokyo, visiting the shrine is the perfect way.