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…
They’re BACK and better than ever this year! Last year the legendary azaleas at the Nezu Shrine were struck with a perfect storm of misfortune, but they’re making it up this year by being extra-spectacular.
In full glory, April 19, 2018
With the big torii gate at the entrance
How do they get them to bloom like that? Kind of amazing, isn’t it?
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
JINDAI BOTANICAL PARK
This is a new discovery that’s a little ways outside of metro Tokyo (in Chofu) but it’s well worth the trek!
The azaleas are surrounded by equally beautiful trees, which makes for nice pictures
They’re next to a lake too
My favorite thing about the Jindai azaleas is that they’re huge. You can walk around among them and be totally surrounded by wildly blooming hills of flowers
SHIOFUNE KANNON-JI TEMPLE
This one is also not 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!)
To get there, plug your nearest station into the Train Finder or download a free Japan Travel mobile app to your phone (I use Navitime Japan Travel) with Kabe Station as the destination.Getting to Shiofunekannon-ji Temple without a car takes about 1.5 hours by train, 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Open: 9:00-17:00, closed Mondays & Fridays
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
As April wends its way toward May, the riot of color on the hillside gives way to the manicured bushes around the pond
Which, as you can see, are spectacular in a whole different way
You might even luck into some local butterflies enjoying the pinkness
Open: Every day, 9:00-17:00
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…
When not hunting incredible azaleas, Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Tokyo
“A genuinely gripping crime thriller which wrong-foots and perplexes the reader throughout, drawing us in emotionally . . . Highly recommended.” –Raven Crime Reads
Someone has been visiting the grave of Tokyo Detective Kenji Nakamura’s mother on the day before her death anniversary. For nine years, he thought his mother’s death was an accident. Then he gets a call, and his life begins to unravel… Read more