In a quiet neighbourhood of Tokyo’s Bunkyo ward, lies the equally quiet Nezu Shrine. It doesn’t quite rank up there with Meiji Jingu or Hie but it is still a great place for a visit. In historical terms though, it is very famous. I like it a lot as it is very beautiful and home to a great flower festival. If you are looking for a more relaxed shrine to visit, I highly recommend this one.
First though, let’s take a quick look at its history. According to records, Nezu was first built in Sendagi (a little to the north) and is dedicated to Susanoo-no-Mikoto, the god of seas and storms, during the first century by Yamato Takeru. In 1705 it was then moved to its current location by the fifth shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, when he chose his successor, Tokugawa Ienobu. It is one of the oldest shrines in the city. Many say it is also the most beautiful shrine in the city, but as with all things, beauty is subjective, so I’ll leave that decision up to you.
The architecture is something I really like. If you’re a fan of Japanese shrines, you might have noticed it is Gongen or ishinoma-zukuri style, like Toshugu in Nikko. And quite rare for a Tokyo building is that most of the buildings at Nezu have survived from 1706 and therefore they have been designated as Important Cultural Properties of Japan.
The grounds of Nezu are quite big but not as big as say Sensoji Temple or Meiji Shrine. And they need the space because while it usually isn’t very crowded, from April to May they have a festival there that makes the place very, very popular. Nezu is famous for its azalea festival (you can see pictures of the 2018 event here). The hill that is next to the shrine comes alive with colour from its more than 3000 plants, and it attracts lots of visitors. Tokyo has many flower festivals, and this is one of the best. It is really good.
Other things that might be of interest at Nezu include lots of torii, those gates found at Shinto shrines and the other is sukibei (a wall with a lattice in it) around the honden (main hall). The other points of interest include a viewing deck from which to look down upon the pond under it and the main hall. Lastly there is another shrine there in a corner, Otome-inari, dedicated to the goddess of rice.
I highly recommend Nezu Shrine as you can get to explore one of the lesser known shrines of the city and see it pretty much as it used to be. To get the most of your visit though, it’s best to visit it during the Azalea Festival, as those flowers are really worth seeing. You can see its (Japanese) homepage here.
How to get to Nezu Shrine
Todaimae, Nezu and Sendagi subway stations are all close. Todaimae is definitely the closest, with it being about an eight-minute walk away.
Here is a Google map to help you:
The grounds are open twenty-four hours a day, while the administration building is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
Absolutely free, but to enter the hill with the azaleas during the festival there is a small fee.
If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy:
Hokutopia – a lesser-known observatory in the city
Institute for Nature Study – a refuge for the city’s wildlife
National Museum of Nature and Science – where else to learn about our world?
Sengakuji – resting place of the 47 ronin
Todoroki Valley – a great place to enjoy the outdoors in Tokyo