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 a lot of history. That history 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, 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.
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. And it needs space because from April to May there is an azalea festival that brings a lot of people. The hill the flowers are on comes alive with the colors from its more than 3000 plants! Tokyo has many flower festivals, and this is one of the best. It is excellent.
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 is in the corner of the grounds, dedicated to the goddess of rice.
I quite 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.
If you are a shrine lover, this should be one of the places high on your list 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 it was moved to its current location by the fifth shogun, Tsunayoshi Tokugawa. He did this when he chose his successor, Ienobu.
Why do photographers like Nezu shrine?
- 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. It is suburban Tokyo.
- For most of the year, quite a few locals visit it during the day. To avoid them, you might want to go very early in the morning if you want to photograph the shrine’s architecture.
- During the azalea festival, you will have to work with the crowds.
- You can’t use tripods to photograph on the hill during the azalea festival.
Where is Nezu Shrine?
Todaimae, Nezu, and Sendagi subway stations are all close. Todaimae is the closest, about an eight-minute walk away.
Here is a Google map:
The grounds are open twenty-four hours a day, while the administration building is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
None, but there is a small fee to enter Azalea Hill during the festival.
Other photo spots near Nezu Shrine
There is a lot to see in Bunkyo ward, and some places I recommend include:
Nezu Shrine is a great place to explore as it is mostly unchanged from its original design. To get the most out of your visit, go during the Azalea Festival. Those flowers on the hill are worth seeing. You can see its (Japanese) homepage here. Please leave questions and comments below.