Tokyo Spring 2019: The crowded but glorious Nezu Shrine

COVER Tokyo Nezu Shrine - Tokyo Spring 2019: The crowded but glorious Nezu Shrine

The Nezu Shrine possesses a certain elegance that can only come with age. Being one of Japan’s oldest shrines, it holds itself with a grace and dignity that will make poets gleeful with inspiration. Beyond the usual buildings and well-maintained grounds this shrine has an amazing garden, and I’m not the only who thinks so since this place has A LOT of visitors. And to think the guidebooks call this place underrated.

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I suppose it makes sense for Nezu Shrine (or Nezu Jinja) to be this crowded in the spring. It is, after all, famous for its Azalea Festival from April to May. Colorful flowers in different hues bloom and crowd the shrubs that neatly make up a hillside within the compound. It’s absolutely beautiful and something you should see with your own eyes to appreciate to its fullest. There are over 3,000 different azalea bushes of different varieties just on this one hillside alone, so you can imagine how glorious it is in real life.


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Though entering the shrine is free, you will have to pay 200 yen to enter the hillside garden. A small price to pay, quite frankly. For once I didn’t mind that the small pathways crisscrossing through the azalea shrubs were crowded. None of it diminished the experience of viewing the flowers from up close one bit. We made like tourists and snapped lots of photos and selfies with the plants. I honestly loved the vibrant visuals of this place. So bright are the azaleas they almost have this way of winking under the sunlight, contrasting against earth and leaves.

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Nearby, there is a path lined with torii gates leading to and from one of the smaller shrines. The vermilion color stands out from the greenery the same way the azaleas do. Though these torii gates are not as grand nor are they as tall as the world-famous Fushimi Inari, it is still pretty. They say passing through will bring you from the physical plane to the spiritual. 

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While the flowers and the torii gates have a way of stealing your attention from the koi pond and the smaller shrine, there is one structure in here that is able to hold its own. Nezu Shrine’s Tower Gate, or romon, stands two stories tall and is impossible to miss. Behind it is the main temple building here in Nezu Shrine. It’s a building which had apparently escaped damage during the world war, so it’s basically an original structure dating back to the 1700’s or the Edo period. This is a real piece of history, right here.

The Nezu Shrine is also one of the most lavishly designed shrines I have ever come across in my travels in Japan, despite being much smaller. Usually, shrines have a simpler façade, and while I’m no expert at Japanese architecture, I noticed they are very rarely as elaborate as this.

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There was a line snaking out of the main shrine and I can’t recall what it was for, but it helped us make the decision to focus on the azaleas instead. Before leaving, we dropped by a small tea house inside the shrine grounds for tea and some steamed red bean buns. If I remember correctly, these steamed buns were made with some sort of amazake or fermented rice drink. You can smell it on the bread, though the filling is read bean. Somehow it made the experience feel even more complete.

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How to get to Nezu Shrine:

  • On the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line (C), alight at Nezu Station and take Exit 1. It should take less than 10 minutes to walk to the shrine’s south entrance.
  • Also on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line (C), alight at Sendagi Station and take Exit 2. It should take about 10 minutes to walk to the north entrance.
  • On the Tokyo Metro Namboku Line (N), alight at Todaimae Station and take Exit 2. Use an online map to make your way to the shrine because it won’t be as straightforward, but it will take a shorter time.

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