Ten years ago, I had the good fortune of wandering over to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine at just the right time, on just the right day, and just as the rain very briefly turned to snow. The shot below is my favourite from those fortuitous few minutes, and should you want to, several more from the same set can be seen here.
Since then, February 11th, National Foundation Day, has been a noted day in my diary, and I’ve been back to see the same spectacle almost every single year. Of course it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever get a series of photos that match those first ones, but there’s no harm in trying, and anyway, despite my utter distaste for what these uniformed nationalists stand for, I find the whole thing absolutely fascinating. I also have a grudging respect for them, as there’s none of the noise and bombast that is all too often an integral part of such gatherings. Instead, they quietly march up to the shrine, very solemnly pay their respects, and then depart en masse in a similarly restrained manner.
This year was no different, but with regard to photography, the low winter sun and resultant shadows made shooting difficult, so this is the best I got. A shot I like, but at the same time, it’s not all that different from others I’ve taken.
With that in mind then, it seemed like a good idea to add another shot from yesterday, as well as a couple of previously unseen images from two years ago. Photographs that document some of the other people who tend to make an appearance on February 11th.
To be fair, their behaviour is equally respectful, but compared to the main group, I really don’t know what to make of them. So here they are without further comment.
Shinto shrines can be found everywhere in Japan. Some, of course, are large and grand like the famous Meiji Jingu in central Tokyo, but many more are small, simple structures — especially so outside the big cities. And yet while they are all unique, I’ve never seen one quite like this before, or at least not one with such incredibly striking torii gates.
Rainy season, it has to be said, isn’t the nicest time of year. The humidity ramps up enormously, and, as the name suggests, it tends to rain rather a lot. Yet despite such unpleasantness, June is a popular month to get married in, and probably just as popular as a venue is Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine. A money making machine that at the weekend sees up to around 15 weddings in a single day.
Given the surroundings and the ceremonial outfits, the public procession element of each service is quite the spectacle. An aspect that used to garner a huge amount of attention due to the shrine being a popular tourist spot, but it was just me and a young family watching on Saturday. One of the many very visible changes of the world we now live in. A new world in which this young couple are starting a new life in. But it’s a journey they are embarking on together, and one that started out in some style to say the least.