The Azalea Festival「文京つつじまつり」(tsutsuji matsuri) is celebrated yearly at the Nezu Shrine「根津神社」 in Tokyo and 2014 (5th April to 6th May) marked the 45th time that this festival has been held here, with the flowers blooming at their peak during the 3rd/4th week of April.
About 100 types of azaleas, with the number of flowers totalling 3000, can be found in the compound.
The Nezu Shrine is said to have been established over 1,900 years ago by the legendary priest Yamato Takeru no Mikoto in Sendagi with Susanoo no Mikoto as the chief deity. In the Edo Period (1600-1867), the 5th shogun Tsunayoshi relocated it from Sendagi to Nezu to commemorate the adoption of Ienobu as his successor and the 6th shogun Ienobu chose it as the guardian deity. The Gongen-style architectures (typical of modern shrines) of Honden (main sanctuary), Haiden (worship hall), Heiden (offering hall), Karamon (Chinese-style gate), Romon (two-story gate) and Sukibei (lattice-windowed wall) are designated as nationally Important Cultural Properties.
Photo Credit: Nezu Shrine「根津神社」
There are two different gates that will lead you into the shrine premises. This was the one that I entered from.
I later discovered that mutiple torii gates could be found here…
….and looking at them from this angle (below) reminded me of the torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto! (of course the numbers here pale in comparison)
Food stalls could also be found at the other entrance to the shrine but there weren’t as many as those at the one I had initially entered from.
It’s actually easier to locate the azalea garden if you enter through this particular gate (not marked but this would be at the extreme bottom of the map in the first photo of this post), as the garden will be just a short walk in and on the left.
Look for the signs providing directions to the azalea garden「つつじ苑」.
This is the view from outside the garden.
Tickets (¥200 each) can be bought from this booth.
I headed to the extreme right of the azalea garden and started climbing uphill. Although not all the flowers were in full bloom but it was still quite a sight to behold!
There were so many different species of azaleas that I didn’t know all of their names!
Can you spot me? LOL…
I liked this view of the azaleas with the row of torii gates.
I think the picture below is my favourite! (taken from the extreme left side of the garden)
A peek at the Romon「楼門」from the garden.
This is how the two-storey gate looks from the front.
You can take a break at this teahouse and their specialty is Amazake「甘酒」, a drink made from fermented rice.
They also sell sake manju「酒まんじゅう」, a bun made using sake lees with a red bean (azuki) filling.
These ladies are busy preparing the drinks as soon as a customer has placed an order. Note that you’ll need to return your tray with the empty cups to this area once you are done.
I ordered two servings of amazake「甘酒」 and this came with two cups of tea (probably to cleanse your palate after you’ve consumed the amazake). The amazake didn’t taste of alcohol and I didn’t really fancy it. Haha…not that I’m an alcoholic but I just didn’t really like the taste of it.
I bought a box of 6 sake manju「酒まんじゅう」 to try…
The red bean filling contained plump red beans and wasn’t too sweet.
Cheers to the lovely scenery!… ^_^
These were the seats at the teahouse (actually they looked more like tables) and it was free seating, so just pick a spot which is unoccupied and with the scenery of your choice.
There were actually sakura trees above the canopy which we were seated under but it was already the end of the cherry blossom season and most of the flowers had already dropped. We were watching this sparrow and were shocked when it found a big fat juicy worm from one of the fallen sakura flowers! Eeek! I then started becoming more conscious of what I was stepping on as the petals were scattered all around…
If you like flowers, it’s worth a visit.
1-28-9 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Admission to the shrine precincts is free but there is a fee to enter the azalea garden.
Getting There (by Tokyo Metro):
A 5 minute walk from either 千代田線 根津駅 (Nezu station on the Chiyoda line), 千代田線 千駄木駅 (Sendagi station on the Chiyoda line) or 南北線 東大前駅 (Todaimae station on the Namboku line).
A 10 minute walk from 三田線 白山駅 (Hakusan station on the Mita line).
Photo Credit: Nezu Shrine「根津神社」
Do keep a lookout for signs when you’re making your way there from the train station (i.e. to confirm whether you’re headed in the right direction), but note that these signs may not be in English!