This is my favorite shrine in Tokyo. I love walking through the long tunnel of orange torii gates, and in April the hills surrounding it are covered in blooming azaleas. But that’s not all – when we finish enjoying the Nezu Shrine, let’s walk around the neighborhood, where some of my favorite traditional shops in Tokyo are just waiting to tempt you with their wares.
In addition to having nice buildings, the hills around the Nezu Shrine are completely covered with azalea bushes, which burst into flaming balls of pink, white and purple at the end of April every year.
The Nezu Shrine is also gorgeous in November, when the autumn leaves reach their peak.
Shrine hours: 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Now let’s walk around the neighborhood – Nezu is a great example of shitamachi (old town) Tokyo. Many stores have been in business since the Edo Era (before Japan opened to the West). Here are some of the things we’ll see:
•Calligraphy brush stores.
•Paint stores selling brilliant powdered pigments for the artists who attend the venerable art school in the area.
•Housewares stores selling old-fashioned goods like wickerware pillows.
•Tsukudani shops selling many varieties of traditional crispy sweet and salty snacks. Most tsukudani are made from bits of seafood, meat or seaweed and eaten over rice.
Nearby is Zenshoan Temple, which has a tall gold Kannon statue and magnificent peonies (in May). If you’re lucky enough to be visiting in August, stop in at the temple’s Ghost Museum (¥500). Telling ghost stories is one of the traditional ways Japanese kept cool in summertime because they “send a chill up your spine.”
And finally we get to the Nenneko Store, which sells only cat-themed merchandise. There is a lovely hand-drawn cat map posted outside showing which cats live at which neighborhood houses.
Across the street from the cat store is Yanaka Cemetery, where one of the Tokugawa shōguns is buried.
Nearby destinations: Koshinzuka Market, Origami Center, Rikugi-en, Yushima Shrine
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