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Kameido Tenjin's Wisteria Color the Spring in the Kanto Region

Kameido Tenjin Shrine is noted for beautiful flowers and its wisteria festival is the most celebrated in the region. The festival is free and runs to April 30.

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A closeup of wisteria at the Kameido Tenjin Shrine. (©JAPAN Forward by EH Kinmonth)

Sakura blossoms are easily the most well-known sign of spring in Japan. But they are only one of a succession of floral explosions that draw large crowds, including ume (Japanese apricot), tsutsuji (azalea), and ajisai (hydrangea).  Fuji (wisteria) are at their peak in the Kanto area as this is published. While there are numerous venues featuring wisteria, the most celebrated in Tokyo is Kameido Tenjin, also noted for its ume.

This shrine is dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, who is regarded as the patron saint of scholars. Kameido Tenjin is modeled in part on the Dazaifu Tenmangu in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture. As such it attracts students praying for success in entrance examinations.

Visitors line up to pray at the shrine. April 20, 2024. (©JAPAN Forward by EH Kinmonth)

The shrine dates from 1646. Unfortunately, the original was destroyed in one of the American firebomb raids on Tokyo.  It can, however, be seen in woodblock prints.

A Festival of Wisteria

The wisteria festival runs until April 30. Aside from a larger than usual number of food stalls, there are live performances of traditional Japanese dance and music on weekends. The grounds are lit up from dusk to 9 pm.

Fried satsumaimo (sweet potatos) at a festival stall. (©JAPAN Forward by EH Kinmonth)
Ayu are grilling at the Kameido Tenjin wisteria festival. (©JAPAN Forward by EH Kinmonth)
A shamisen performance at the Kameido Tenjin Shrine. (©JAPAN Forward by EH Kinmonth)

The current state of the blossom can be checked from the Kameido Tenjin Shrine site on Instagram.

Getting There

The shrine is a 15-minute walk from the Kameido Station on the Sobu Line. It is about the same distance from the Kinshicho Station on the Sobu and Hanzomon Lines.

There is no admission charge.

Wisteria trellises are found throughout the shrine grounds. (©JAPAN Forward by EH Kinmonth)

Getting Around In the Shrine

The shrine itself is flat and accessible for wheelchair users except for the two arched bridges. Movement is, however, difficult when the shrine is extremely crowded as it was when I visited.

Wisteria and an arched bridge similar to one at the Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture.(©JAPAN Forward by EH Kinmonth)
A closeup of wisteria at the Kameido Tenjin Shrine. (©JAPAN Forward by EH Kinmonth)

Conclusion

A visit to Kameido Tenjin is a good way to experience the Japanese enthusiasm for flowers and spiritual belief in everyday life. It offers a variety of festival and street food. The shrine's proximity to Akihabara and the Tokyo SkyTree allows quite different experiences on the same day. 

Those who wish to avoid crowds should visit in the early morning on weekdays. 

The Kameido Tenjin Shrine is known for its abundant turtles, which also play a part it the shrine's name. (©JAPAN Forward by EH Kinmonth)

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Author: Earl H Kinmonth
Photographs by EH Kinmonth. Find other stories about Tokyo and nearby areas by Dr Kinmonth.

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