Where To See The Most Amazing Azaleas In Tokyo

From mid-April to mid-May, it seems like there are bright pink bushes whipping by the train window everywhere you go in Tokyo, but there are a few special places that just beg you to take the kind of snaps that make everyone scream “I want to go to there!”

Here are my favorite places to take azalea photos in Tokyo…

SHIOFUNE KANNON-JI TEMPLE

I’m going to kick this post off with a new discovery, even though it isn’t actually in metro Tokyo – it’s out in Ome, which is about an hour and a half from Shinjuku Station – but as you can see, it’s well worth the trip during azalea season!

This place is HUGE. It’s like the Nezu Shrine on steroids

As you wend your way to the top, there are nice views of the benevolent Kannon who raises a blessing hand over the polka-dotted hillsides

Various colors of azaleas pop in and out of season for about two weeks

Everywhere you look, giant pompoms

Hiking paths climb through a bloomy wonderland…

…until you reach the top, where you can soak in 360 degrees of azalea goodness. By the way, this photo was taken at close to “full bloom” – sadly, we don’t live in Photoshop Heaven where all of them hit maximum eyepop at the same time. (An extra bonus of this azalea spot is that even when it’s super crowded, you barely realize other people are there. Note the ant-like swarm at the bottom of the hill near the temple building – they couldn’t spoil the view of the flowers if they tried!)

Getting to Shiofunekannon-ji Temple without a car takes about 1.5 hours by train (use the Train Finder to search for the best route from your nearest station to Kabe Station), then it’s about a 35-minute walk to the temple entrance. Or you can take a bus from the station – the one bound for Nishi-Tokyo Danshi – and walk 10 minutes from the Shiofune Kannon-iriguchi bus stop.

Open: 8:00-17:00

Admission: ¥300

Map

Another newly-discovered azalea spot is closer to metro Tokyo:

SHOWA KINEN PARK

The best azalea display is right near the Tachikawa entrance, at the big fountain.

A magnificent multicolored hedge completely surrounds the fountain…

…and somehow they manage to get all the colors blooming at the same time

This giant park is in Tachikawa, about an hour from Shinjuku Station, and although it’s a long way to go just to see the azalea hedge, it’s such a big park, there’s a lot more to see than just what’s famously in season. For example, at the same time the azaleas are blooming, you can catch the tail end of the “Flower Festival”:

There’s a big section by the “Serpentine” river that is planted in tulips, and it’s in constant bloom from early April until early May. This picture was taken on the same day as the azalea photos.

Hours: 9:30-17:00

Admission: ¥410

Map

But of course, there are plenty of spectacular places to see azaleas just a short train ride away from anywhere in Tokyo. For example…

NI NO MARU, Imperial Palace East Garden

Most inviting place to sit in all of Tokyo

Wherever you are, you’re surrounded by color

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This little garden is filled with hedges that look like abstract paintings made with flowers. Most of the year, the Imperial Palace gardens are totally missable, but during azalea season, you have to GO.

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For sheer “paved with color” perfection, you can’t miss at this small but lovely spot that’s in the “downstairs” part of the Imperial Palace East Gardens

The banks of bushes snake around green lawns…

…and little islands of not-blooming, so the colors look even more vivid in contrast

No matter what season I go, this garden is one of the most uncrowded I’ve seen in Tokyo. If you wait patiently, you can easily get pix with no people in them

Even the parts that aren’t solid color are just beautiful

The first azaleas to bloom are the red ones, the last are white. At any one time, several colors are in full riot, but the mix changes every day.The first azaleas to bloom are the red ones, the last are white. At any one time, several colors are in full riot, but the mix changes every day.

Open: 9:00-17:00, closed Mondays & Fridays

Admission: Free

Map

NEZU SHRINE

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This shrine in Northern Tokyo is one of my favorites in any season, but it’s famous for its azaleas.

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How do they get them to bloom like that? Kind of amazing, isn’t it?

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The added bonus of seeing the azaleas at the Nezu Shrine is that you can also walk through their tunnel of torii gates.

Open: Every day, 9:00-17:00

Admission: ¥200

Map

Note: Sadly, in 2017 the Nezu Shrine azaleas were struck by a perfect storm of weather and malaise, and the bushes produced only a few buds this year. The staff told me that they hope that with treatment, the bushes will bounce back next year, as beautiful as ever.

RIKUGI-EN GARDEN

Rikugi-en is one of the most serene gardens in Tokyo, but from mid-April to mid-May, riotous spots of color pop up amid the greenery

“Azalea Mountain” is across the pond, beyond my favorite bridge

You can climb up through the crazy colors…

…and from the peak, you can pretend that all your base are belong to us

As you can see, even while the “mountain” is in full bloom, the shadier parts of the garden still have colorful surprises in store. If you miss the peak, you’ll still find pockets of delight amid the greeniness

Open: Every day, 9:00-17:00

Admission: ¥300

Map

If you’re anything like me, maybe you’re wondering why cherry blossoms are such a big deal when azaleas can look like this. So I asked one of my Japanese friends the question

Jonelle patrick writes novels set in Tokyo

In the wake of a deadly earthquake, fans erupt in a frenzy of mourning when it’s discovered that their favorite pop star is among the dead. But when Detective Kenji Nakamura is sent to investigate a death at a local shrine, he finds evidence that suggests the impossible: How could the head priest have been murdered by…read more