The 46th Annual Nezu Shrine Azalea Festival
Nezu Shrine, in the Nezu neighborhood of Tokyo's Bunkyo City is always a great destination for a relaxing time. Having over 300 years of history, it’s one of the oldest Shinto Shrines in Tokyo, and has plenty of aesthetic scenery to enjoy on its relatively expansive grounds. Tucked away in a quiet spot, a few steps away from the main shopping district, Nezu Shrine is an urban oasis in which visitors will easily forget their city surroundings and enjoy a bit of peaceful, natural respite.
Those in search of a refreshing and leisurely event for enjoying a morning or afternoon should look no further than one of the shrine's most honored events, the annual Azalea Festival. This floral celebration has been held every spring since 1969, and has become one of Bunkyo City’s most treasured yearly occasions. Without a doubt, it is a spectacular sight that’s well worth seeing! Locals and visitors alike are welcomed into the tranquil surroundings of Nezu Shrine's extensive terraced gardens, and treated to the breathtaking expanse of brilliant azaleas ("Tsutsuji" in Japanese), spanning over 6,600 square meters and including over 100 different varieties. Some of the flowers on display are very rare, providing guests with an opportunity to see azaleas in shapes and colors that are almost never seen elsewhere. In addition to flower viewing, other Japanese festival attractions including a flower market as well as appetizing snack and beverage vendors will be available for the enjoyment of all.
Why azaleas, you ask? Not only are they quite a lovely species of flower in general, the azalea also happens to be the official flower of Bunkyo City, and from time to time observant visitors will find images of them displayed on local businesses, and in artwork and monuments throughout the area.
When to go
The official start of the festival is Saturday, April 11th 2015, and it ends on Wednesday, May 6th. In order to take in the beauty of the flowers in full bloom, however, the best time to visit is near the end of March. Visitors should be aware that the week-long stretch of national holidays (Golden Week) which begins on April 29th, brings local festival-goers out in vast numbers, and Nezu Shrine can quickly become a very crowded place during that time. Flower-lovers who prefer to avoid heavy crowds should therefore plan accordingly.
How to get there
Take the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line to Nezu Station and depart through Exit #1, "Nezu Crossing." Follow the street-level signs pointing toward Nezu Shrine and turn left at Nezujinjamae Street.
Cost: There is an entrance fee for the festival of ¥200 for adults; children are admitted free of charge.
Pro tip: Just after rounding the corner at Nezujinjamae Street, there is a small candy shop on the left called Koishikawa Kintaroame (http://tokyospotting.com/tobuy/koishikawa-kintaroame/). The shop first opened in Bunkyo City’s Koishikawa neighborhood back in 1915 and has been a family business for three generations. The family moved the shop to Nezujinjamae in 1998. Stop in for a bag of traditional handmade Kintaroame (keen-tah-row-ah-may) candy, bearing the likeness of Japan’s famous “Golden Boy” folk hero, Kintaro!