Around the start of the 17th century, Shogun Tokugawa began building a new administrative capital out of a fishing village in a swamp. This was the birthplace of Tokyo. His successor was advised to build a great temple to the northeast to guard against the evil spirits from that direction. In 1625 he constructed a massive complex of thirty-six temples in Ueno.
Only a hint of the complex remains today but the land that the temples occupied is home to Ueno Koen (Park). Five years before it opened as Tokyo’s first public park in 1873, it was the site of a bloody battle between the supporters of the new Meiji government and warriors still loyal to the Shogun. The temple complex, where six of Japan’s fifteen shoguns were buried was destroyed but today, the site still holds a temple and three cemeteries.
The park contains a host of attractions but it lacks lawns and picnic areas. It is famed for its collection of cherry trees that attracts huge throngs, each spring, during cherry blossom season. At the south end of the park is a large pond that was once part of an inlet from Tokyo Bay. It comes alive in the summer with pink lotus blossoms. We went for a walk through the park on a warm, sunny spring day watching families enjoying the end of the Golden Week Holidays and celebrating National Children’s Day.
Unfortunately, we were too late to view the cherry blossoms and too early for the lotus; reasons enough to make a return visit to Tokyo one day.