April is the time when nature is reviving from the harshness of winter. Many flowers start blooming as the temperatures rise and the Kanto region is blessed with gorgeous azaleas. If you have the opportunity to go to Tokyo in this season, we highly recommend visiting the area around Nezu Shrine. Nezu Shrine itself is a famous azalea (rhododendron) scenic spot, and there are many unique, historic shops around. Let’s check out what you can do in half a day.
Without question, you must visit Nezu Shrine (根津神社) to see the splendid azaleas. Nezu Shrine is located in the Bunkyo ward of Tokyo. It was established in the 1700s and has a rich history with a total of 7 buildings in the precincts that have been registered as important national cultural properties.
Before entering the shrine, you have go through a walkway which is lined with souvenir shops and food stalls on both sides. Most of these have been serving here for decades. For example, this time-honored brand called Kintaro is just at the entrance of the walkway. You can buy a lot of very traditional Japanese snacks.
Many Japanese get nostalgic as they savor these snacks, especially the senbei (rice crackers) that have stood the test of time.
Once you enter the temple area, you will see many beautiful structures including vermillion gates. Torii are said to divide our world and the spirit (kami) world. Nezu Shrine has Senbon Torii, similar to Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, but much shorter.
The end of April and the beginning of May is when the azaleas are in full bloom, and the torii behind the blooming flowers look particularly beautiful.
The Azalea garden inside Nezu Shrine’s property spans across approx. 6,500 square meters and has around 3,000 azalea plants of 100 species.
Each month, the shrine sells plaques (to write wishes) featuring the flowers of the season. In April, you can pick one featuring azaleas. Many people collect one for each month as decor.
Although the area of the shrine is not too large, it has all the essential features of a Shinto shrine. You can enjoy examining all the minute architectural details as you take a walk.
The area where Nezu Shrine is located has quite a lot of character although it is mainly residential. There are many eateries that are much loved by locals. One such spot is Ohirasei-Pan, a small bakery well known for its Koppepan or soft roll. Similar to a hot dog bun in the US, these are stuffed with a variety of fillings.
Whether you like sweet or savory, you are sure to find something you like. Sweet options include apple, tea and walnuts, strawberry, while savory options include curry, napolitan and more. The menu is written on these adorable tiny pieces of wood.
Even the coffee cup is so cute with the mascot holding bread wearing a hat. This image is also embossed on the breads.
This is a great area to spend half a day wandering through the tiny streets that have the feel of old Tokyo. If you visit in April or May, don’t miss out on the Azalea festival in Nezu.
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