Homotsuden: the Treasure Museum of the Meiji Era

Meiji Shrine may already be on the top of anyone's “must-visit” list when visiting Tokyo. Make sure that your visit is scheduled on the weekend so as not to miss one of the highlights of this 700,00 square meter Shinto shrine located in the middle of Tokyo. Amidst all of that property, there is one part of the shrine that cannot be discarded.

Homotsuden, or the Treasure Museum is located at the northern end of the vast premises, a few minutes walk through a path created in between the forest from the main shrine. The Treasure Museum is one of the first concrete buildings built in Japan in 1921, reflecting the Ooyukazukuri (high floor style) of Azekurazukuri Shosoin in Nara (the Japanese National Treasure House); a remarkable aspect of a blend of Japanese style with Western influence symbolic of the Meiji period. The fact that the building was built by concrete was one of the reasons why it survived the war, as well. Thanks to its survival, Homotsuden was designated as an Important Cultural Property in June 2011.

A unique collaboration of the Japanese and the western influence seen at the foot of the building.

You may be surprised to see the modesty of the first “treasure” as you enter the building: two pieces of pencils on the desk that the Meiji Emperor actually used for his duties: one new and another used. The length of the used pencil shows how prudent the Emperor was.


Maybe because Japan is my home country, but one step into the museum, the smell makes me feel somehow nostalgic, with its wooden floor and the ceiling made of washi or Japanese paper.


The modesty of the “treasure” is said to reflect the personality of the Meiji Emperor.

In addition to the long lines of portraits of former emperors, the exhibition entails a large variety of scenes surrounding the couple, representing the era.

Long lines of portraits of the emperors including those of the ruling female empresses.


The diorama shows the funeral of the Meiji Emperor, which was said to have been a grand-scale event.


Amidst the western touch that the Meiji Emperor adored, there are truly Japanese porcelain with rather modern designs which seem to have been favored by him and his wife.


There is also an exhibit of the type of rock that is mentioned in the lyrics in the national anthem: the sazareishi or pebble rock.

At the end of the exhibition is a horse-drawn carriage, which was used only once by the Meiji Emperor and the Empress in 1889, on the day they were heading out to the military parade celebrating the promulgation of the Meiji Constitution on February 11, 1889: the day which marked Japan as the first constitutional state in Asia.

Following the British style at the time, the carriage bears a rather glamorous decoration especially the golden phoenix and the surrounding edge at the top, despite the modest form that the Meiji Emperor often seemed to have preferred (Photo Credit: Meiji Jingu Shrine)

Once you step out of the exhibition room, don’t forget to see the roof of the building outside. It is also the original part of the vicinity since the building was built. Although it may be in need of a restoration, after 100 years of accommodating the treasures, it still glows with its intricate design.

The roof has a unique design of its own with an intricate layer of red tiles.

Outside, although unofficial, there is a rock in the shape of a turtle that has recently become popular for being a “power spot”.

Power spot or not, the widely spread grass in front of the building is certainly relaxing, making it a perfect spot to read under the tree with a perfect view of both a classical building and the glimpse of a modern building. The best part of Tokyo; a peaceful space in the midst of the city!

Meiji Shrine was built to commemorate Emperor Meiji and his wife, who by the way, is the founder of the organization that later became the Japanese Red Cross Society, with the funding she had provided to give equal treatments to all wounded during the time of war regardless if they were allies or enemies.

Both the Meiji Emperor and his wife were regarded highly for their efforts to move the nation forward after it had strictly been closed off from foreign influence for over 200 years during the Edo Period. The shrine was built originally with over 100,000 trees. Meiji Shrine is also home to the experimental grounds of a man-made forest, which inhabits diverse plants and animals. While the research continues on with its unique “wildlife” within Tokyo, the shrine will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020.

The turtle rock sits in front of the pond. According to the shrine there is no official record as to why such rock has been placed where it is.
The real live turtles gather in one of the spots in the pond, which was not made intentional yet bringing another special atmosphere to the part of the shrine.
One of the most serene spots in Tokyo!

Homotsuden (Treasure Museum)

Open Hours:

March to October: 9 am to 4:30 pm (last admission 4 pm)

November to February: 9 am to 4 pm (last admission 3:30 pm)

Entrance fee / Contribution for maintenance: 500 yen (Free on April 11 and July 30)

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