I know you’re exhausted after elbowing your way through the crazy crowds instagramming the cherry blossoms, which is why you should take a deep breath and go see the azaleas. Like cherry blossoms, the all-flowers-all-the-time spectacle will knock your socks off, but unlike the famous fluffy things, you can enjoy them in blissful near-solitude. Here are my favorite places to bask in the floral glow, with tips for how to ensure you’re enjoying them ALL BY YOURSELF.
This is the most restorative of the azalea gardens. An easy stroll from Komagome Station, the 88 views from famous poems deliver an excellent dose of serenity along with shots of azalea goodness.
Open: Every day, 9:00-17:00
This next one is also an easy walk (from Hibiya, Nijubashi-mae or Otemachi Stations) and if you’re there in the morning when it opens, you’ll be shocked and amazed that for the first half hour, you’ll be so alone with the splendor, you’ll be tempted to grab the arms of complete strangers to say, “Can you believe this?”
NI NO MARU, Imperial Palace East Garden
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
This next one takes a little more effort to get to, but as you can see, you can lose yourself in the shoulder-high maze of azaleas, and it’s never crowded, even at peak bloom. As a bonus, the non-blooming parts of this spacious park deliver hours of relaxing strolling, with snap-worthy views around every corner.
JINDAI BOTANICAL PARK
SHIOFUNE KANNON-JI TEMPLE
This one is a day trip (it’s out in Ome, about an hour and a half train ride from Shinjuku), but as you can see, wow. And even if the trails are infested with fellow azalea-oglers, you barely notice them amid the sheer scale of this bowl-o-color-puffs.
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.
This one is closer to Tokyo (a ten-minute walk from Tachikawa Station) and while the size of its azalea display is modest, they bloom at the same time as the tulips. Which are (scroll down!) boggling.
SHOWA KINEN PARK
It’s a long way to go just to see the azaleas, it’s such a big park, there’s a lot more to enjoy than just what’s famously in season. For example, here’s what’s happening in another part of Showa Kinen Park in the month of April:
And finally, this. I’m putting it last, even though it’s easy to get to (from Nezu and Sendagi Stations) because it does attract cherry blossom-like crowds. But if you’re waiting outside the little gate when it opens, you can usually enjoy a good twenty minutes before the ravening hordes and tour groups arrive.
Open: Every day, 9:00-17:00
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“Without question, the best book I have read all year.” —Susan Spann, author of the Hiro Hattori mysteries and CLIMB
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!