Updated on April 21, 2020
Azalea bushes covering the temple grounds (photographed in April 2018)
Shiofune Kannon Temple, known as “a temple of flowers and history,” is located about 40 km from the heart of Tokyo. Get a bus from Kabe Station, and you will find the temple a 10-minute walk from the nearest bus stop. Surrounded by small hills, the shape of the land where the temple is set resembles a ship, hence the name “shiofune” (salt ship). This ancient temple was founded over 1,000 years ago.
As you pass through Nio-mon Gate, the temple’s main gate or “Sanmon,” you will be greeted by a pair of powerful Kongo-rikishi (Nio) protector statues standing guard. A number of precious cultural properties come into sight: the Hon-do (or Main Hall), an important national cultural property, and Buddhist statues, designated as tangible cultural properties by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Ome City. Even though many of these treasures date back to the Kamakura and Muromachi periods (from around 1185-1573), you may be surprised at the incredibly good condition in which they have been preserved. Seeing the passage of time etched in the fine details of these works is sure to be leave an impression upon you.
On the hill behind the Hon-do, an azalea garden has been developed since sometime between the 1960s and 1970s. Today there are over 20,000 azaleas of more than 20 varieties there. The “Azalea (Tsutsuji) Festival” is held from mid-April to early May, during the azaleas’ blooming season. The festival attracts great crowds, with about 100,000 visitors coming from Tokyo and elsewhere.
From the rear of the garden, you can enter the Kasumi Kyuryo Hills Nature Park. Walk along a ridgeway, which includes a great viewing spot, and you can enter a hiking course which features views of Mount Fuji.
Learning about the local history of this area and reveling in its natural scenery, bursting with colors, will let you leave feeling invigorated and with a fresh mindset.
From JR Kabe Station, take a bus bound for Ome-shako or Ozaku Station Higashiguchi (East Exit) and get off at Shiofune Kannon Iriguchi (Entrance). The Shiofune Kannon Temple is a 10 minute-walk from the bus stop.
[Shiofune Kannon Temple]
Phone: . Only during the Azalea Festival are there admission fees: 300 yen for adults and 100 yen for children.
(in Japanese only)
Sanmon Gate (Nio-mon)