Shiofune Kannon-ji Temple in Ome
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.
This Buddhist temple is devoted to the bodhisattva Kannon…
…whose Junoesque statue presides over the blooming hillsides from the highest point.
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.
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:
The temple sits in a natural amphitheater, with a small garden and fish pond at the bottom, near the main temple buildings.
And the hiking is all like this. It’s like hiking through a bower of flowers.
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.
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:
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:
The magenta ones are the first to bloom, followed by white, purple, and orange.
Azalea season: Mid-April to the beginning of May
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:
Here’s a more local map, showing where the nearest train station is:
Here’s how to get to Shiofune Kannon-ji 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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