Hello again! Our consecutive national holidays called “Golden Week” (It is a kind of Japanese-English expression) have just finished in the first part of this month in Japan. It was a very unusual occasion for us to have 10 days’ consecutive national holidays due to celebrating the new emperor’s throne. (I just wrote about the topic of the new era).
Gorgeous flowers other than cherry blossoms in spring
By the way, I took my guests from the US to Azalea Festival (“Bunkyo Tsutsuji Matsuri” in Japanese, and “Tsutsuji” means “Azalea”) at Nezu Shrine in Yanaka/ Yanesen Area during the Golden Week. The festival is held for a month, from the beginning of April to the beginning of May every year. It’s said that there are about 3,000 azalea trees for 100 different species in the area of the shrine. It was the 50th anniversary of the festival in 2019 and the flowers were full-bloomed when we visited there!! The scene of full-bloomed flowers was so marvelous, and I would like to tell foreign visitors who missed the cherry blossom season that you can still enjoy other types of flowers in Japan, especially in Spring!
Actually, so many people both Japanese and foreigners came to enjoy seeing the flowers and taking photos covered by them (In particular, Asian people were really keen on taking selfy photos due to upload them to SNS like Instagram). We had to wait for entering the garden for 30 minutes or so, but it was worth to do it. Additionally, there are lots of small food stands along the path at the shrine such as grilled seafood, Okonomiyaki (Pan-fried Dish), and shaved ice with sweet syrup, etc, which is a typical atmosphere of the Japanese Festival. Wadaiko (Japanese Drum) and some local dance are also performed during the period of the festival along with the leaflet, (I just remembered to see Wadaiko performance there with other guests from Germany last year. All Wadaiko performers were young ladies of the local residents and their performance was so dynamic and amazing!!) so, why don’t you visit there when you came there in Tokyo in the season??
Usually, Nezu Shrine is a local quiet sanctuary
The shrine is surrounded by a very quiet and calm atmosphere other than the season of the Azalea Festival. It was said that Nezu Shrine was built almost 1900 years ago by “Yamato-Takeru-no-Mikoto” who is famous for a hero of Japanese ancient myth and enshrined as the god for various Japanese shrine. The current buildings including 7 architectures with the bright red were built in 1709 by the Shogun Tokugawa family and it has been more than 300 years without losing any of them by disasters such as great fire, earthquakes, and air raid at wars, which they are registered as Important cultural property. All of the buildings are covered by so bright colors and many gold parts and it is the same designs of “Nikko Toshogu” which is one of the most famous sightseeing spots and was also built by Shogun Tokugawa in Tochigi prefecture. If you have visited Nikko Toshogu before, you may notice the common design between them.
There is another shrine called “Otome Inari Shrine” located at the next of the azalea garden. It is enshrined the god of match-makings and women as the name suggests (“Otome” means “women”, “ladies” and “girls”). You can overlook Nezu Shrine on a pond with colorful carps below from the main building and the view from there is also exceptional. The most eye-catching things are arrays of small red torii continuing to the main building and it seems like a “mini” Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto which is the most iconic shrines in Japan. These red toriis are mostly dedications from local people. Here is also popular photo spots among visitors. In case you cannot visit Kyoto because of your schedule, you can be satisfied with enjoying the atmosphere like “Fushimi Inari Shrine”.
By the way, we have plenty of “Inari Shrine” all over Japan and these are enshrined the gods for agriculture and foods. Besides, a fox is a divine messenger of the god for Inari, so you can find a pair of fox statues at an altar and /or entrance of the main building instead of “Komainu (statues of guardian dogs)”. Please check them when you visit Inari Shrine somewhere!!
“Yanesen” has been popular sights among tourists who like quiet and traditional residential area in Tokyo
“Yanesen” where Nezu Shrine located is abbreviations of names among 3 areas, Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi, and these areas are categorized as a traditional residential area in Tokyo. An atmosphere around there is completely different from other urban areas in Tokyo, so it has been gradually popular among foreign tourists who prefer to see more traditional and older town, not modern and busy town in Tokyo.
In fact, you can enjoy taking a walk freely along very narrow paths in a quiet environment and find local shopping market streets called “Yanaka Ginza” where you can taste local street foods. (By the way, we tend to name “XXXX Ginza” for local shopping streets like “Yanaka Ginza”, “Togoshi Ginza”, “Sunamachi Ginza”. “Ginza” is one of the most leading shopping districts in Tokyo and people at shopping streets gave the name of “XXXX Ginza” with a wish to flourish shopping streets like Ginza.)
anaka Reien is a large public cemetery and it is famous for having cherry trees along both sides of the streets and it seems like a cherry blossom tunnel in spring. Here is also a nice walking area to feel the local atmosphere. You may think it a bit odd to walk in the cemetery, but it should be a very unusual experience to see them and feel different cultures from yours.
The area is an older town, but the new thing is also emerging at the same time. For example, there are modern and new style cafes with renovated old houses by young generations and specialty goods shops here and there. It is another enjoyment to feel fusions both old and new aspects in the area by walking slowly.
Lastly, I will let you know some cautions when you walk around the area. Residents in the area prefer to keep them in a quiet and calm environment, so please be careful not to speak loudly and to make noise, especially walking as a group of people. Some residential people don’t like to take photos of their houses without any permission, so please take care a little about this point, as well. This is not my case, but I heard from some other guide that visitors who were taking photos of ordinary people’s houses without any hesitation were scolded by the landlord sharply. You had better not to take photos of someone’s houses as much as possible… However, people who are living in the area are basically very kind and having welcome atmospheres to anybody else. I hope you find another world of TOKYO other than a massive modern city.
Access to Yanesen area
- Walking distance from JR Nippori Station, Tokyo Metro Sendagi Station and Nezu Station (Reference site: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3068.html)