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Beyond Tokyo MAR-APR 2022

Shiofune Kannon-ji Temple in Ome

Let’s hike through bowers of flowers!

🌳Every April, this temple’s kilometers upon kilometers of hiking trails look out on riotously blooming azaleas, as far as the eye can see. Around every bend, each view is more jaw-dropping than the last. Shiofune Kannon-ji is out in Ome, about an hour and a half train ride from Shinjuku (which makes it pretty much a whole day trip), but as you can see, wow. And even if it’s high season and the trails are infested with fellow azalea-oglers, you barely notice them amid the sheer scale of this bowl-o-color-puffs.

First of all, the Shiofune Kannon-ji grounds are HUGE. It’s like the Nezu Shrine on steroids.

Azaleas in bloom at Shiofune Kannon-ji temple in Ome, Japan

This Buddhist temple is devoted to the bodhisattva Kannon…

Azaleas in bloom at Shiofune Kannon-ji temple in Ome, Japan

…whose Junoesque statue presides over the blooming hillsides from the highest point.

Azaleas in bloom at Shiofune Kannon-ji temple in Ome, Japan

Good thing she’s the bodhisattva of mercy, or she could crush those little ant-like people like bugs! As you can see, getting to her is the real treat—the trails wind in and out of the pines and everywhere you look are more gorgeously blooming azaleas.

Azaleas in bloom at Shiofune Kannon-ji temple in Ome, Japan

The paths never feel steep because they traverse back and forth among the blooming pompoms as they climb. In no time at all, you can look down on this:

Azaleas in bloom at Shiofune Kannon-ji temple in Ome, Japan

The temple sits in a natural amphitheater, with a small garden and fish pond at the bottom, near the main temple buildings.

Azaleas in bloom at Shiofune Kannon-ji temple in Ome, Japan

And the hiking is all like this. It’s like hiking through a bower of flowers.

Azaleas in bloom at Shiofune Kannon-ji temple in Ome, Japan

There are smaller shrines and a fine bell tower along the way, and places where you can appreciate both the flowers that are up close and the ones dotting the far hillside.

Azaleas in bloom at Shiofune Kannon-ji temple in Ome, Japan

The azaleas are in season for a total of about three weeks, but the various colors don’t all bloom at the same time.

This picture was taken at the end of April, pretty close to peak bloom:

Azaleas in bloom at Shiofune Kannon-ji temple in Ome, Japan

Some bushes will always be green no matter when you come, because they’ll either be done blooming or not blooming yet. If you come earlier, it looks more like this:

Azaleas in bloom at Shiofune Kannon-ji temple in Ome, Japan

The magenta ones are the first to bloom, followed by white, purple, and orange.

Azalea season: Mid-April to the beginning of May

Hours: 8:00-19:00 

Open: Every day

Admission: There’s a small admission “donation” during azalea season—the temple website doesn’t say how much, but I remember the “suggestion” being about ¥300 per person.

Here’s where Shiofune Kannon-ji is:

Map showing location of Shiofune Kannon-ji temple in Ome, Japan

Here’s a more local map, showing where the nearest train station is:

Local map showing location of Shiofune Kannon-ji temple and Kabe train station

Here’s how to get to Shiofune Kannon-ji from Tokyo:

Train route to Shiofune Kannon-ji temple in Ome, Japan from Tokyo

Getting to Shiofune Kannon-ji from Kabe Station

Kabe Station in Ome is the closest to the temple; it’s about a 35-minute walk from there to the entrance. You can also take a bus from the station – the one bound for Nishi-Tokyo Danshi – and walk 10 minutes from the Shiofune Kannon-iriguchi bus stop.

I used the Japan Navigation phone app to figure out this route, and you can easily use it too, with your actual date and preferred arrival time. It’s also good for finding the easiest way to get to Ueno Station from where you’re staying. Here’s where to get the app and how to use it.

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More Beyond Tokyo destinations are in the JAPANAGRAM ARCHIVE

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The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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2022, April, March

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