Ueno Park

Ueno Park

If your visit to Tokyo, Japan coincides with cherry blossom season or the fall foliage you must visit this park! There are over 1,200 cherry trees and many odd-looking structures scattered about the area.

The first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, built the Kan’ei-ji Temple and sub-temples in the park to rid the northeast of evil spirits. Five years after the battle, in 1873, the last supporters of the shogun were defeated by imperial forces and Ueno was converted into a public park.

There are several things to see in the park:

Near the park’s southern entrance, there is a statue of Saigo Takamori, one of the generals that took part in the Battle of Ueno.  The park is home to many museums such as the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Nature and Science, the Ueno Zoo, and the Japan Gallery where you can see the model for the movie “Hachi”.

The Kan’eiji-Temple was one of the largest and wealthiest temples in the area and functioned as a prayer hall to protect the Ki-mon, Demon’s Gate, of Edo Castle. It suffered near destruction in the Battle of Ueno between the new Meiji government and the shogun loyalists. It was rebuilt and can be accessed free of charge.

A portion of the original Buddha statue from 1631 remains at The Daibutsu Yama or the Great Buddhist Pagoda. Natural disasters such as an earthquake in 1640, a fire in 1841, and another earthquake in 1855 took a toll on the statue. The final blow was another earthquake in 1923 that reduced the Buddha to only its head. The body and pedestal were seized by the government and melted down to produce weapons during World War II. There’s some irony for you… a buddha, symbol of peace, converted into weaponry. In 1972 it was decided that a pagoda should be built, and the Buddha head was restored and embedded in a wooden framed wall.

The Tomb of the Shogi Tai has one of the saddest, yet interesting stories. After the battle of Ueno, 83 dead Shogun Warriors were left on the battlefield. Since they were against the government, the Imperialists left them in shame without a proper burial. Then Priest Bukki, from the Entsu-ji Temple procured government permission to cremate and bury the warriors. He set a grave marker over the remains in honor of the sacrifice they had made. In 1875 a monument was erected on their burial place that reads “the grave of the fallen in battle”. A Buddhist service is annually held on May 5th to honor the shoguns.

There are two Shinto shrines located in the park. Gojoten Jinja and Hanazono Inari Jinja shrines, according to legend, were founded about 1900 years ago in the park. They were relocated to other places then came back to the park in 1928. Every February 3rd many Shinto and Buddhist temples hold a bean throwing ceremony.

There are many other structures and cool things to see in Ueno Park.

Helpful Information

Best Time to Visit: During cherry blossom season or the fall foliage is the best time to visit. However, is there ever a bad time to take a walk in the park?

Important Information

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Kristal Ham

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