So How Come Azaleas Are Chopped Liver?

Cherry blossoms are definitely the favorite child. Back in March, as The Season approached, the newspapers all breathlessly reported the movement of the pink tide from south to north, weather forecasts were read as anxiously as tea leaves in order to plan trips to cherry infested locations at the exact moment of full bloom, and if I never see another photo of a pink tree, I can still die happy.

I mean, cherry trees are nice and all, but right now everywhere in Tokyo the azaleas are blooming, and they’re AMAZING.They come in other colors besides pink! Sometimes there’s even more than one color on the same bush! Whole hillsides (see below) are covered with blazing balls of blooming for weeks during April and early May!

But apparently, that’s the problem. When I asked a Japanese friend why azaleas get no respect, she explained that cherry trees bud, bloom, lose their petals and die in the course of a week (thus providing a metaphor for the swift passing of life that’s put rice in poets’ bowls for centuries). But, she added scornfully, AZALEAS JUST LAST TOO LONG.

These photos were taken at the Nezu Shrine, where they hold an Azalea Festival every year at the end of April. If you’d like to go the next time you’re in Tokyo, directions and a map are on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.

Read a novel set in Tokyo

A young woman dressed as a Gothic Lolita is found dead in a car with two strangers. But the more Yumi Hata learns about her friend’s death, the more she’s convinced it was murder…read more