Tokyo's Nezu Shrine

Historical site alongside an immense azalea garden

By Nicole Bauer    - 3 min read

Nezu Shrine in northern Tokyo has an extraordinarily beautiful setting as it is built alongside a hill, which is covered with about 3,000 azalea bushes of different species. In spring, when the azaleas start to bloom, you will be able to marvel at an absolutely stunning and colorful sea of azalea flowers. The colors range from white to light pink, orange, purple and glaring red, and it is definitely a must-see if you visit Tokyo around April.

The shrine buildings and structures you can see today date back to 1706, and their architecture are quite typical for Shinto shrines at that time. Coming from Nezu station, you enter the grounds passing beneath a big red torii (gate) and you will find yourself in front of another enormous gate. However, just before that, you will cross the typical bridge, which symbolizes the purification of mind. The pond below the bridge is home to a few ducks, turtles and carps. To your left-hand side, you will already see the hilly part of the grounds, covered with the popular azaleas.

<p>Main shrine building</p>
Main shrine building

The main shrine building, surrounded by a lattice-windowed fence, has stunning and very elaborate decorations. There are also a lot of Buddhist symbols incorporated, which proves that the shrine was built before the separation between Buddhism and Shinto came into place. Make sure you go to the smaller building on the right-hand side of the main structure. You will usually be able to marvel at the mikoshi, the portable shrine, also very beautifully decorated.

Track your steps back through the two-story gate and keep right. There is the beginning of a long narrow path going up the hill, covered with lots of relatively small red torii, forming a kind of tunnel. Definitely go up there until you reach another couple of shrine structures, one of them featuring a nice terrace with a view across the grounds.

<p>The extensive azalea garden</p>
The extensive azalea garden

Every year, from around mid-April until the beginning of May, the shrine holds the so-called Tsutsuji Matsuri (Azalea Festival) to celebrate the flowers, which will then be in full bloom. There is a little path that leads right through the azalea bushes, giving you the most spectacular views from all kind of different angles. This is by far the busiest time of the year and you will find a lot of food stalls and some entertainment like taiko drumming or traditional dance, especially during the weekends.

However, even if you do not visit during April or May, it is still very much worth going; just stroll around the hilly part and marvel at the neat decorations and fittings of the main shrine building.

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Find out more about Nezu Shrine.

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Nicole Bauer

Nicole Bauer @nicole.bauer

Travelling abroad to discover new places, getting to know different cultures and learning foreign languages has always been my passion. I was born and raised in Germany; however, for a few years now I've been very lucky to be able to spend my life abroad. I lived for some time in England and Italy before moving to Japan in October 2009. It took me a while to adapt to this very different world; however, travelling up and down the country has helped me to not only adapt, but to actually fall in love with this country Japan. It has also reawakened my interest in photography, so whenever I get a chance I pack my camera and discover something new. Japan is full of beautiful but less well-known places. To make these more discoverable for everybody, I'm very happy to be able to share my stories and photography on this site, and open a world of extraordinary experiences, which would be difficult to find in a guidebook. For any queries regarding Tokyo as a travel destination or any of my published articles, please feel free to contact me.

Join the discussion

Elena Lisina a year ago
I also visited Nezu Jinja during azalea festival and didn't see the shrine well enough, so it's worth to come back!
JJ Walsh 7 years ago
This reminds me of Hiroshima's Tosho-gu shrine near the shinkansen side of Hiroshima station. Behind the shrine, is the same red tori lined path up the mountain but without the beautiful Azalea bushes (there are lots of green trees and bamboo to enjoy though). Beautiful pictures!