Spring brings so much beauty to Tokyo. Unlike it’s more famous cherry blossom cousin, azaleas are often overlooked. Not many people know that there is a whole festival dedicated to these beauties. Usually near the end of April and the beginning of May, the Tsutsuji Matsuri (azalea festival) is one not to be missed.
Located in the Bunkyo ward close to the University of Tokyo and a short way from Ueno Park is the Nezu Shrine. It is filled with many varieties of azaleas with all the colors one can imagine even black! There are literally over 3000 azaleas with more than 100 varieties. It is a beautiful setting with a shinto shrine in the midst of an Edo-style surroundings. There even is a small waterfall and turtles for a perfect zen like atmosphere to enjoy the blossoms.
It gets quite popular, especially during Golden Week, and can have long lines even just for shrine worship as noted below. There is an entrance fee of 200 yen to the flower area itself. A low fee for the amazing views provided. However, the shrine grounds are open for free to the public. There are ample food vendors and multiple items on sale around the site itself especially during the festival.
There are also multiple red tori gates dotting the hillside adjacent to the azalea blossoms providing quite a photo opportunity. Of note per the official Tokyo travel guide “at a designated time for special viewing, visitors are also allowed to enter the shrine’s main building (a National Important Cultural Asset) to appreciate its historic architecture as well as statues and paintings that are not usually presented to the public”
This festival is a definite must see when in the area! Easily accessible from both the Chiyoda and Namboku line. The walk alone to the shrine itself is lined with quaint shops, restaurants and vendors. A perfect way to spend a gorgeous spring day!