Iwadono Shohoji is a small mountainside temple, known for its Purple or ‘Mitsuba’ Azalea, in Tokigawa Town.
I was updating the information for the 2023 Kasa natural ice rink in Tokigawa town today. Which reminded me that Shohoji temple is one of more than 300 posts I have sitting in drafts! The reason it reminded me is twofold. One, the official flower of Tokigawa town is the Mitsuba Tsutusji or Purple Azalea. Two, the bus stop for the rink is “Shohoji bus stop”!
Mitsuba Tsutusji are a purple azalea. Mitsuba means three leaves. They are also called Murasaki Tsutsuji; murasaki means purple, tsutsuji means azalea. The flower of May 1st in Japan is the Mitsuba Tsutusji. Mitsuba Tsutsuji are native to Tokigawa and have grown naturally in the town for centuries. You can see the beautiful calming purple bush flowers all over the mountain and Tokigawa town from around the end of March to late April. But one place that is particularly known for them is Shohoji Temple.
Shohoji Mountainside Temple
Shohoji Temple is an otherwise unassuming mountainside temple hidden up a back road. There is little on the web in any language about this clandestine temple in the hills of Tokigawa. However, since I first researched the temple, they have at least started their own website – as recently as 2020! So I can tell you, which was uncertain before they published their website, that the temple was founded in 1229. Other than that, unfortunately I can’t tell you much. Except that the azalea are pretty and that the temple is part of a ‘purple azalea festival’ in Tokigawa annually in April.
I’ll be very upfront and say; that the purple azalea of Shohoji while beautiful, are not quite as enchanting as the purple mountain in Ogose. Having visited both, I would recommend that if you had to pick between one or other, I’d go for the purple mountain in Ogose. It doesn’t have a temple, but there is a greater concentration of purple azalea in a larger area. Likewise, for an even more impressive azalea temple (with azalea of all colors), I highly recommend Godaison, which is also in Ogose.
However, if you are in Tokigawa and travelling by car, it is worth a stop off while the azalea are in bloom. And the temple grounds are in a very picturesque setting. The temple is in a sort of enclave so at certain angles you can see the mitsuba azalea all around you. Moreover, there are also some weeping cherry blossoms and late blooming fluffy cherry blossoms on the grounds. And there are also butterfly flowers, which you can see in many parts of the Nishidaira area around the same time the azalea are in bloom.
Ki no Mura
The area is called Nishidaira, but its marketed as “Ki No Mura” 木のむら or a wood / forest village, as you can see in the photo above. As you may know, there is a famous and very beautiful campsite in Tokigawa which is called Kinomura Camp, and it is relatively near Shohoji Temple. All the lamp posts in this area, so around Komonoyasan, the Kasa rink and stables, for example, have ki no mura written on them. I perceive the area with the “ki no mura” lamp posts as the tourist area of Tokigawa, which is quite extensive, as there is a lot to do in Tokigawa.
Purple Azalea Festival
The Purple Azalea Festival, or Murasaki Tsutsuji Matsuri, is held on the first AND again on the second Sunday of April each year. However, as far as I know, the festival has not been on since the pandemic began. Hopefully it will be back in 2023 for the first time in four years. If so, I will update this section with more specific information at the time. Generally, there is live performances and festival stalls at the temple and other locations on the two Sundays of the festival.
Attraction: Purple azalea, aka Mitsuba Tsutsuji, at Iwadono Shohoji Temple, most commonly called Shohoji Temple.
Season: Spring – generally late March to early April
Venue: Iwadono Shohoji Temple, most commonly called Shohoji Temple, 849 Nishidaira, Tokigawa, Hiki District, Saitama 355-0364. View on Google Maps.