Nezu Shrine – a photographer’s guide

Nezu Shrine
The main worship hall of Nezu Shrine.

In a quiet neighborhood of Tokyo’s Bunkyo ward, lies Nezu Shrine. It isn’t as famous as others in the city, but it has history. That counts for a lot in this city. It also is gorgeous and home to a famous azalea festival. If you are looking for a relaxed place to visit, you should try this one.

Nezu is one of the oldest shrines in the city and is said to be the most beautiful one. But as with many things in life, beauty is subjective, so I’ll leave that decision up to you. But, there are so many things that combine to make it attractive.

Nezu Shrine torii gates
Nezu Shrine's famous torii gates.

It has beautiful architecture. If you’re a fan of Japanese shrines, you might know it is in the gongen or ishinoma-zukuri style, like Toshugu in Nikko. And quite rare for a Tokyo building because it has survived mostly intact over the centuries. It is so important the government designated it an Important Cultural Property.

The grounds are pretty extensive but not like Sensoji Temple or Meiji Shrine. And it needs space. Because from April to May there is an azalea festival that brings many people. The hill the flowers are on comes alive with the colors of its more than 3000 plants! Tokyo has many flower festivals, and this is one of the best. It is excellent.

Nezu Shrine azaleas
The azalea festival of 2022.

What else is of interest at Nezu? You can see torii (gates at Shinto shrines) and the sukibei (a wall with a lattice in it) around the main hall. There is also a viewing deck to look down upon the pond under it and the main hall. Last, Otome-Inari shrine, dedicated to the rice goddess, is in the ground’s corner.

I like Nezu because it is very authentic. By that, I mean it isn’t overloaded with tourists. It is a place for locals. At all times of the day, people will be there doing very things. Some will be there reading books, others eating lunch, and some will be there waiting for friends to have a chat. Of course, many people pray there too.

Nezu Shrine torii flanked by two stone lanterns

If you are a shrine lover, this should be high on your list of places to visit. Most people I know put it in their top ten. It is one of Tokyo’s jewels.

A brief history of Nezu Shrine

According to records, Nezu was built in Sendagi (a little to the north) in the first century. Takeru Yamato dedicated it to Susanoo-no-Mikoto, the god of seas and storms. In 1705, Tsunayoshi Tokugawa moved it to its current location. He did this when he chose his successor, Ienobu.

Nezu Shrine stage

Why do photographers like Nezu shrine?

  • Architecture
  • Azalea Festival (pictures from the 2022 event here)
  • Shrine halls
  • sukibei (a wall with lattice in it) around the honden (main hall).
  • Torii gates, similar to those at Hie Shrine.
  • The shrine is in a local area.  Above Azalea Hill are private houses.

Photography tips

  • For most of the year, quite a few locals visit it during the day. To avoid them, go early in the morning if you want to photograph the shrine’s architecture.
  • During the azalea festival, you have to work with the crowds.
  • You can’t use tripods to photograph the azaleas.
Nezu Shrine Romon gate
The Romon gate.

Where is Nezu Shrine?

Todaimae, Nezu, and Sendagi subway stations are all close. Todaimae is the closest, about an eight-minute walk away. Click here to see it on Google Maps.

Opening hours

  • The grounds are open twenty-four hours a day.
  • The administration building is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
Azalea hill

Admission costs

None, but there is a small fee to enter Azalea Hill during the festival.

Photo spots near Nezu Shrine

There is a lot to see in Bunkyo ward, and some places I recommend include:

Wrapping up

Nezu Shrine is a great place to explore as it is mostly unchanged from its original design.  But make sure you go during the Azalea Festival.  Those flowers on the hill are worth seeing.  Please leave your questions and comments below.

Nezu shrine gate roof

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