When Americans think of Japan, it is common that they think of the kawaii-culture of cute characters and cosplay outfits. The capital of kawaii-style fashion is Harajuku, Japan, where the streets are packed with clothing stores selling pink, furry, lacey clothing that really could only be worn in Harajuku itself. Wedged between the clothing stores are crepe stands and theme restaurants, such as the Kawaii Monster Café and the Alice in Wonderland restaurant. The most common visitors of Harajuku are teenage girls and foreigners who hope to observe the spectacle.
Based upon the reputation of Harajuku, the last thing anyone would expect to find there is a serene, beautiful shrine. Togo Shrine defies the odds by being a famous shrine that sits right within the unique city of Harajuku. The merging of modern and historic is a common occurrence in Japan and truly adds to the country’s charm.
Unlike the Meiji Shrine, the Togo Shrine has a very small plot of land, but it makes use of its space in the best way possible. The Togo Shrine holds a pond, Japanese-style garden, a boardwalk, and a wooden pathway that winds through the shady trees.
The Togo Shrine is created in honor of Heihachiro Togo (1847-1934), who is recognized as being one of the world’s greatest Admirals. Togo studied naval science in England for six years before being appointed a lieutenant first class. Togo was very strictly trained and used his training to earn the title of “The Great Togo.” Togo brought Japan the great victory at the Battle of the Japan Sea, which gained him worldwide respect and earned him the position of highest rank Fleet Admiral. Despite the incredible recognition, Togo is said to have been very humble and apparently never spoke of his accomplishments. Later in life, Togo was given the honor of educating the Crown Prince, Emperor Showa.
Six years after Togo’s death, the Togo Shrine was completed in his honor. Unfortunately, like many shrines in Japan, the shrine was burned down in an air raid. Fortunately, the shrine was rebuilt from 1958 to 1984. Every year, the shrine holds a gala festival on May 28 in Togo’s honor.
When you visit a shrine, such as the Togo Shrine, you can purchase a goshuin. A goshuin is a book to take with you as you visit different shrines. At each shrine you can pay for a stamp and inscription. A goshuin is kind of like a Shinto passport to record all the shrines you have been to. At the Togo Shrine, they even have cute goshuin such as ones with Hello Kitty on the cover. When you pay for your stamp at the Togo Shrine, you will receive a plastic flower with a number on it. When your stamp and inscription are finished, they will call for your number and you can exchange the plastic flower for your goshuin.
If you wish to pray at the shrines you visit, there is a proper method you should know. When you are standing in front of the shrine, you should throw a coin into a box as an offering to the deity. Then, you must bow twice. After that, clap your hands twice with your left hand slightly higher than your right. After clapping, keep your hands together and pray. Once you are finished praying, bow once more.
The Togo Shrine is very unique as you can see the skyscrapers and hotels that are nearby from within the property. If you are in the Harajuku area, visiting the Togo Shrine is a must.
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