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History of Nezu, Tokyo’s Pre-War District

History of Nezu, Tokyo’s Pre-War District

Nestled within the vibrant tapestry of Tokyo’s diverse neighborhoods, Nezu stands as a district steeped in history, culture and tradition. A stroll through the streets of Nezu is a voyage through time, where ancient traditions blend seamlessly with the pulse of modern urban life. In this article, you will learn about the fascinating history of Nezu, unraveling the stories woven into its iconic landmarks, exploring the cultural evolution that shaped its character and celebrating the dynamic fusion of old and new that defines this unique Tokyo neighborhood. To get a rich understanding of this retro neighborhood, why not spend your night at HOTEL GRAPHY NEZU, where you can experience the charming local area firsthand?

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One of Nezu’s most iconic landmarks is Nezu Shrine, a Shinto shrine with a storied history dating back to the Edo period. Founded in 1705 by the fifth shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the shrine has been a center for spiritual worship and cultural festivities. The architecture of Nezu Shrine reflects the beauty of Japanese aesthetics, with torii gates guiding visitors through a mesmerizing tunnel of vibrant colors reminiscent of Kyoto’s famous Fushimi Inari Shrine. Each step within the precincts is a journey through time, surrounded by ancient trees and traditional structures.

Nezu Shrine is dedicated to the deity Susanoo-no-Mikoto, who is believed to protect against evil forces and ensure prosperity. The main hall, adorned with intricate carvings and architectural elegance, serves as a focal point for worship and cultural appreciation. Visitors can participate in traditional rituals, such as cleansing at the temizuya (water basin), offering prayers, and purchasing omamori (amulets) for blessings and protection.

Beyond its religious significance, Nezu Shrine hosts several annual festivals, including the Azalea Festival in April, when the garden becomes a canvas of blooming azalea flowers. This event attracts locals and tourists alike, fostering a sense of community and celebration.

Photo by Yuya Tamai

As Japan transitioned into the modern era, Nezu underwent transformations, blending tradition with contemporary elements. The Nezu Museum, established in 1941, stands as a testament to this fusion. The museum houses an impressive collection of pre-modern Japanese and East Asian art, featuring ceramics, textiles, and paintings. Its serene garden, designed by the legendary landscape architect Ken Nakajima, offers a tranquil escape in the midst of urban hustle.

In recent decades, Nezu has become synonymous with sophistication, attracting a diverse community of artists, intellectuals, and trendsetters. The streets are lined with charming cafes, galleries and boutiques, contributing to the area’s reputation as a cultural hub. Art enthusiasts can explore local galleries showcasing contemporary works, while traditional tea houses offer a serene retreat for those seeking a taste of classic Japanese hospitality.

Traditional crafts shops offer a glimpse into Japan’s rich artisanal heritage. Here, you might find intricately designed ceramics, delicate textiles and handcrafted items that make for unique souvenirs. Many of these stores are run by skilled craftsmen who have honed their techniques over generations, preserving the essence of traditional Japanese craftsmanship.

You can also find trendy boutiques and concept stores showcase the latest in fashion, design and lifestyle products. From chic clothing boutiques to modern home decor stores, the area caters to a diverse range of tastes.

Cafés and specialty food stores also dot the streets, inviting visitors to savor local flavors and culinary delights. Whether it’s a cozy tea shop, a traditional sweet store, or a trendy café serving artisanal treats, Nezu offers a culinary journey that complements the cultural richness of the district.

The allure of Nezu extends beyond its tangible landmarks. The intangible heritage of the district lies in the stories passed down through generations, the memories etched in the community’s collective consciousness. Nezu embodies the essence of Tokyo’s evolution, encapsulating the spirit of resilience and adaptation that characterizes Japan’s cultural landscape.

The history of Nezu is a captivating narrative of continuity and change. From the sacred grounds of Nezu Shrine to the modernity of the Nezu Museum, this district tells a tale of cultural richness and urban vitality. As you explore the streets of Nezu, you embark on a journey through time, experiencing the harmony of tradition and innovation that defines this remarkable corner of Tokyo. Enjoy a stay at HOTEL GRAPHY NEZU while exploring this underrated, rich area of Tokyo.


A little urban oasis located in the heart of Yanesen and near Ueno station. This hostel-like space is the perfect place to come together and take a break from busy Tokyo.

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