When rhododendrons become the stars

At this time of year, Japan (or at least the Tokyo area and similar latitudes) forgets the cherry blossoms to dive into the rhododendron blossoms. And in fact, I prefer this phase to the over-hyped cherry blossoms: rhododendron flowers are ranging from white to deep red, with interesting contrasts offered by the green foliage. Not even mentioning that it's usually 10 degrees warmer now...

The East Imperial Gardens are open to the public and offer a very nice green bubble in the middle of Tokyo, just a few hundred meters from the central district of Marunouchi. Definitely a good spot to remember for picnics!

 

 

Further north in Tokyo, the Nezu shrine, in Bunkyo ward has preserved a full hill side to multicolored rhododendrons. The only "problem" is that it advertises the blooming period and you have to fight the crowds to get a nice point of view (doesn't show too much on the picture below, though). And you have to wait in line for the best restaurants of the neighborhood...

 Anyway, this is among the last explosions of flowers and colors before the months of green green green to fall. Probably not many flower colors for a few months, but the summer festivals and fireworks are coming! And even before that, a short trip to the lovely Nikko...

New Year Shrine Visit

On the first day of the year, many Japanese go to the nearest shrine to pay their respects to the gods and ask for good fortune in this new year.

Even in a simple shrine like in my neighborhood, there are quite a lot of people coming on that day!

Note that this is only valid in Shinto shrines and not in Buddhist temples.

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At this occasion, they bring the charms and amulets they purchased the previous year, to be burnt by the priests.

Of course, it's also the occasion to purchase the new ones that will protect the family for the 12 months to come.

And well, yes, this is Japan so any gathering wouldn't be complete without a few food stands!

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