Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo’s Oldest Shrines

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Away from the busy crowds and ultra-modernity of central Tokyo sits Nezu-jinja, one of Tokyo’s oldest shrines. Hidden among tall trees and lush azalea bushes, Nezu Shrine is a place where you can experience the tranquility of nature and recall the traditions of old Tokyo.

travelyesplease.com | Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo's Oldest Shrines

As I wandered around Nezu Shrine, I felt like I had discovered Tokyo’s best kept secret, a hidden gem that gets overlooked in favour of larger, more famous places of worship in Tokyo like Meiji Shrine and Senso-ji Temple.

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- Visiting One of the Oldest Shrines in Tokyo

But perhaps being underrated is what makes Nezu Shrine so special.

Since Nezu Shrine wasn’t mentioned in both my guidebooks, there were few other foreign visitors. I was able to enjoy the secluded setting in peace and witness locals coming to pray, rather than see of throngs of tourists endlessly posing for photos. However, I expect this might not be the case during the Azalea Festival in April, when the hillside of bushes blooms into vibrant pinks and purples.

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- History, Tour, and Tips for Visiting

Even on a regular day, Nezu Shrine is worth visiting. The beautiful setting and pleasant, low-key atmosphere made it one of my favourite shrines to visit in Japan!

travelyesplease.com | Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo's Oldest Shrines

About Nezu Shrine- History and Architecture

Nezu Shrine was established in its current location in 1705, but legend holds that the shrine dates back to the 1st century when it was founded by Yamato Takeru (Prince Osu) in Sendagi, just north of its present site.

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- Visiting One of the Oldest Shrines in Tokyo

The shrine was relocated to the Nezu area by shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi to mark the occasion of him choosing his nephew, Tokugawa Ienobu, as his successor. In 1706, new buildings were constructed in the Ishinoma-zukuri, or Gongen style, taking inspiration from the gilded Toshogu Shrine in Nikko.

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- Tour, History, and Tips for Visiting

Nezu Shrine’s status was further elevated in the 19th century when Emperor Meiji moved his residence from Kyoto to Tokyo, sending envoys to Nezu-jinja to intercede with the gods on his behalf.

travelyesplease.com | Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo's Oldest Shrines

During the air raids of World War II, Nezu Shrine escaped the devastation that led to much of Tokyo being rebuilt, making it one of the oldest shrines in Tokyo. Several structures at Nezu Shrine have since been designated Important Cultural Properties of Japan.

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- Visiting One of the Oldest Shrines in Tokyo

Exploring Nezu Shrine- Features and Points of Interest

I started my visit to Nezu Shrine at the north entrance, passing by some secondary shrines on my way to the main buildings. Here’s a look at what there is to see at Nezu Shrine.

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- History, Tour, and Tips for Visiting

Otome Inari Shrine and its Tunnel of Torii Gates

It was a picture of Otome Inari Shrine that first inspired me to visit Nezu-jinja.

This small secondary shrine is scenically positioned above a koi pond surrounded by dense greenery. The contrast between its vermilion viewing platform and vibrant green bushes make it the most photogenic spot in Nezu Shrine.

travelyesplease.com | Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo's Oldest Shrines

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- Visiting One of the Oldest Shrines in Tokyo

One of the main features of Nezu-jinja is the path of torii gates leading from Otome Inari Shrine. While significantly smaller than Kyoto’s famous tunnel of torii at Fushimi Inari Shrine, it was still fun to wander underneath these special gates towards the main shrine precinct.

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- Tour, History, and Tips for Visiting

travelyesplease.com | Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo's Oldest Shrines

Azalea Garden

There are over 3,000 azalea bushes of numerous varieties covering a hillside near the torii path at Nezu Shrine.

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- Visiting One of the Oldest Shrines in Tokyo

The azalea garden at Nezu Shrine draws a lot of visitors from early April- early May, when the flowers are in bloom, but even without their bright colours, the shrubs still enhance the beauty of Nezu Shrine.

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- History, Tour, and Tips for Visiting

Romon

The most striking gate at Nezu Shrine is the two-storied romon.

Looming large between a little bridge and the shrine’s main hall, the gate features two statues of zuishin, kami warrior guardians holding bows and arrows. The plaque above its passageway reads Nezu-jinja.

travelyesplease.com | Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo's Oldest Shrines

travelyesplease.com | Nezu-jinja- Visiting One of the Oldest Shrines in Tokyo

Karamon and Sukibei Walls

The karamon (Chinese gate) marks the entrance to the shrine’s main place of worship. Attached to it is a 200 m lattice-windowed wall, known as a Sukibei, surrounding the honden.

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- Tour, History, and Tips for Visiting

Honden

The honden is the main hall and most sacred building at Nezu Shrine. It contains the worship hall (haiden) and offertory hall (heiden).

travelyesplease.com | Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo's Oldest Shrines

The gold details and bright colours painted on the hall are eye-catching, especially the golden dragons perched across the pillars.

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- Visiting One of the Oldest Shrines in Tokyo

Many locals stopped to worship here as they were passing through the shrine grounds. Some even wrote wishes on wooden plaques, called ema, and left them hanging inside the shrine for kami (spirits or gods) to receive.

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- History, Tour, and Tips for Visiting

Final Thoughts About Visiting Nezu Shrine

Tokyo can be exhausting for an introvert like myself, but Nezu Shrine was a fantastic place to retreat from the congestion and modern day hustle and bustle.

travelyesplease.com | Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo's Oldest Shrines

It was relaxing to hang out by the ponds, watching fish and turtles swim, and equally satisfying to be surrounded by classic Japanese architecture in a city of skyscrapers.

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- Visiting One of the Oldest Shrines in Tokyo

At Nezu-jinja, I felt like I had an authentic experience, getting a glimpse into old-world Tokyo and the daily rituals of the local people.

If you’re looking to visit less crowded, more traditional places in Tokyo, then Nezu Shrine is worth including in your Tokyo itinerary.

travelyesplease.com | Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo's Oldest Shrines

Photos of Nezu Shrine

Here are a few more pictures of Nezu-jinja, one of the most beautiful shrines in Tokyo!

travelyesplease.com | Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo's Oldest Shrines

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- Visiting One of the Oldest Shrines in Tokyo

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- Tour, History, and Tips for Visiting

travelyesplease.com | Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo's Oldest Shrinestravelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- Visiting One of the Oldest Shrines in Tokyo

travelyesplease.com | Nezu Shrine- History, Tour, and Tips for Visiting

Tips for Visiting Nezu Shrine

Location: Nezu Shrine is located in the historic Yanesen area of Tokyo (short for Yanaka, Zezu, and Sendagi), in the Bunkyo ward. The shrine is not far from Ueno Park.

Getting There: Nezu Shrine can be reached by subway on the Chiyoda Line. From Nezu Station (Exit 1) it’s a 5-7 minute walk to the shrine’s south entrance and from Sendagi Station (Exit 2) it’s an 8-10 minute walk to the north entrance.

  • You can also take the Namboku Line to Todaimae Station. From Exit 2, it’s about a 6 minute walk but not as straight forward as the previous two options.
  • I walked to Nezu-jinja from Ueno Park in about 20 minutes.

Admission: It’s free to visit Nezu Shrine.

travelyesplease.com | Visiting Nezu Shrine- One of Tokyo's Oldest Shrines

Tours of Nezu Shrine

If you’d like to visit Nezu Shrine with a guide, here is a walking tour of Yanaka that includes a visit to Nezu Shrine.

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