My last walking post ended at Gokokuin Temple in Yanaka area. This is near from Ueno Park so today, I will extend this walking route to Ueno Park which is famous for the cherry blossom viewing.
Walking around Gokokuin Temple, you may find interesting architecture, some old and traditional, some modern and unique.
Old Subway Station – Ghost Station?
Ueno Park has lots of art-related facilities including Tokyo National Museum, National Museum of Science and Nature, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo Bunka Kaikan (a concert hall) and Tokyo University of the Arts. Recently ICOMOS (International Council of Monuments and Sites) recommended putting National Museum of Western Art and other 16 buildings designed by Le Corbusier on the list of cultural heritage of UNESCO’s World Heritage. Well, I didn’t visit National Museum this time, so today, forget about World Heritage and let’s see other interesting architecture in this area.
A few-minute walk from Gokokuin Temple will take you to a unique subway station of Museum and Zoo Station.
The uniqueness of this station is that it’s no longer used as a station, but thank god, it’s still preserved. It is said that the exterior appearance of this station looks like Japan’s National Diet Building.
But this station was built in 1933, which was before the Diet Building. Since the location was inside the Emperor’s property, the design was decided with the discussion with the Emperor.
Unfortunately the station was closed in 1997 due to the decrease of passengers using this station and the deterioration which made the building dangerous.
Station buildings in Japan have become quite simple these days in order to cut construction costs. From the architecture point of view, this station, Museum and Zoo Station shows significant features and tells you good old days Tokyo. I myself used to live near from Ueno when I was a kid and I still remember using station just because I wanted to enjoy the atmosphere of this unique but beautiful station building. I found an interesting blog telling the history of this station so for those of you who want to know more in detail, have a look at this blog. Even when it was still in use, the inside of the station was only dimly lit so I found it a little creepy.
The origin of the Ueno Park is Kaneiji Temple which was build by Shogun Iemitsu
Tokugawa in early 17th century. At the end of Edo era between 1868-1869, there was a war between Edo government ruled by Shogun and those who wanted to build a new government with Emperor. Uno area was the centre of Edo (current Tokyo) and became burnt ruins due to the war. Shogun side lost the war and the new government took over.
After the war, a Dutch doctor visited Tokyo to build a medical school who came to Ueno area and saw the devastating situation. He soon suggest the Japanese government to build a park in the area in order to preserve the nature. This has become Ueno Park which was the first government-designated park in Japan. The doctor who suggested the plan to the government was Dr. Anthonius Franciscus Bauduin and he is known as Father of Ueno Park.
I visited Ueno Park at the time of cherry blossoms, so it was very crowded with people who came to the park to enjoy cherry blossoms viewing.
Kiyomizu Kannon-do Temple
As I wrote above, the origin of Ueno Park is Kaneiji Temple built in 1625 and it has several temples in its property. This time, I didn’t have time so didn’t visit the main temple, Kaneiji Temple but I visited Kiyomizu Kannon-do Temple which is located along the main street of Ueno Park.
If you have visited Kyoto, you may notice but Kiyomizu Kannon-do looks like Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto because it has a high stage.
In front of the main building of the temple is an interesting shape of pine tree which was named as Pine Tree of the Moon. This shape of the pine tree in Kiyomizu Kannon-do can be found in one of the Ukiyoe paintings of Hiroshima Ando. This shape was the result of pains-taking efforts of gardeners in Edo Period. The tree was destroyed by the typhoon during the 19th century but recently, they succeeded in growing the same kind of pine tree.
The close look at the pine tree can be found in this site.
Ueno Seiyouken and Izuei Umekawatei – Famous Restaurants
When Japan started to experience western culture, culinary culture was also introduced. Uno Seiyouken was built in 1876 which became a place for social interaction with French cuisine. Aristocracy of Japan and oversea countries gathered here.
Another famous and old restaurant in this park is Izuei Umekawatei which has a history of 260 years. They serve you eel.
As you can see, the restaurant appearance is a traditional style with atmosphere.
Toshogu Shrine and Five-Storied Stupa
The famous Toshogu designated as World Heritage by UNESCO is in Nikko where the first Shogun of Edo Era, Ieyasu Tokugawa is worshiped. There are many other Toshogu all around Japan and one of them is here in Ueno Park. This was built in 1627 and the current building was constructed in 1651.
There are carvings of dragons on the right and left side of the gate. The one goes upwards and the other goes down. They were carved by Jingoro Hidari who was a popular sculptor of the era. It was said that the dragons sneaked out of the gate every night to drink water in Shinobazu Pond which is in the park.
From Toshogu Temple, you can have a good view of Five-Storied Stupa which is also a part of Kaneiji Temple. This stupa was originally built on 1631 and the existing one was reconstructed on 1639.