By David O’Sullivan
For the Kaya 959 team in Tokyo for the Rugby World Cup, today was a day for leaving sport in the background and focussing on the cultural aspects of the Japanese city.
We travelled via train to the Meiji Shrine in the district of Shibuya, Tokyo. It’s a beautiful place, set in 170 acres of forest and dedicated to the memory of the visionary Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken.
The Emperor was a modernist and he took Japan through a period of enlightenment at the turn of the last century, adopting a policy of “Japanese Spirit and Western Knowledge”. He decided that Japan should take the best elements of Western culture and fuse them with Japan’s age-old spirit and revered traditions. He embraced many features of western culture in his personal life by cutting off his traditional “topknot” hairstyle and wearing western clothes. He liked to eat western food and enjoyed French wine.
Emperor Meiji died in 1912, and to commemorate his role in what is known as the Meiji Restoration, the shrine was built in a forest that he and his wife liked to frequent. It was formally dedicated in 1920 and celebrates its centenary next year. For the past few years, a major restoration project has been underway to restore some of the old copper used in the construction. Some of the buildings have been rebuilt after being destroyed in 1945 by American bombs in the Tokyo Air Raids of World War II.
The Shrine is now a busy tourist attraction and the site for celebrations and prayer. While the KayaFM team was at the Shrine a wedding was taking place with all the pomp and ceremony handed down through centuries of tradition.
Later that evening, the Kaya team enjoyed some of the best sushi imaginable at a wonderful downtown restaurant called Seamon. We were treated to dish after dish of the most incredible fresh fish prepared and served up in front of us by highly trained sushi chefs. Sushi is a very popular dish served in restaurants ranging from extravagantly posh to the smallest takeaway.
Tomorrow, we’re off to Kyoto, the ancient cultural capital of Japan. We’re about to get deeper into the culture and history of this amazing country.