Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine, located right outside Harajuku Station in Tokyo, is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. It has a dense, dark forest which seems unexpected living in the center of a capital city.
The forest of Meiji Jingu was not a mighty forest from the start. It was originally a waste land. The authorities in the forest industry, as well as many scholars, engaged in an afforestation program, and examined which trees should be planted to make it a natural forest one hundred years into the future. Evergreens such as castanopsis and live oak were chosen. The prime minister at the time, Shigenobu Okuma, called for “a grand cedar woods like Ise Jingu and Nikko.” However, they chose to plant the kinds of trees that are suitable for the area, turning the space into a primeval forest, aiming to make it a natural forest in one hundred years.
All the fallen leaves on the approach to the forest have been brought back into the forest and left there, never to be taken out of the forest. Leaf mulch are accumulated and it has turned into fertile soil. The policy has been to do nothing at all, and to not alter the space in any way. Thus, it has become a magnificent forest.
The case of the forest of Meiji Jingu should be shared with the world as a precious case study of success among the greening plans for future cities.
Even in the hot Tokyo summer, inside this forest is nice and cool. Because the canopy of castanopsis and live oak is dark and doesn’t allow sunlight to penetrate much, the vegetation on the forest floor is scarce. However, there are still some brightly lit plants in the dark forest, with sunbeams streaming through foliage like spotlights.