Sunday, April 2: Continuing further northwest through Ueno Park, I come to the Ikeda Mansion Gate, at gate that once stood before the residence of the Ikeda Lords of Inabe (Tottori) in the Marunouchi district of the city and was relocated here in 1954. The elaborate gate has two guardhouses with Chinese-style roofs.
My goal is continue following the walk as long as I can, and as long as my feet will carry me. Little do I know how far it is to the next stop, past the International Library of Children’s Literature (there are SO MANY MUSEUMS in Ueno Park!!) to Kan’ei-ji Temple, built in 1625 by the priest Tenkai Sojo to serve the ruling Tokugawa clan.
Kan’ei-ji originally functioned as a prayer hall to protect the Ki-mon (“Demon’s Gate”) of Edo Castle, but later it became the temple in which the Tokugawa family held Buddhist services. At its peak, the temple housed 68 buildings of various sizes. Most of these, however, were destroyed by fire in subsequent civil wars. An enormous image of the Buddha was destroyed by the great Kanto earthquake that hit Tokyo in 1923; only the Yakushi image of the Buddha of Health remains enshrined today. As a hibutsu (hidden image), it is never shown (Into Japan: The Official Guide: Ken’ei-ji Temple).
The former Kan’ei-ji Temple, a 5-story pagoda, sat at the right hand side of the approach to Tosho-gu Shrine. It is currently located inside Ueno Zoo. I didn’t have the time or the interest to visit the zoo today.
Once a great complex, Kan’ei-ji used to occupy the entire heights north and east of Shinobazu Pond and the plains where Ueno Station now stands. It had immense wealth, power and prestige. Of the 15 Tokugawa shoguns, six are buried here. (Wikipedia: Kan’ei-ji)
In the 1600s, the shoguns showed great interest in Confucian doctrines, leading to the founding of the Confucian Academy on the temple grounds.
Luckily, it’s not crowded at this out-of-the-way temple, so I’m able to take a few close-up shots of the cherry blossoms.
As I leave Kan’ei-ji, I turn right until I come to Kototoi-dori. Opposite is the Jomyo-in Temple, built in 1666 as one of 36 residences for priests of Kan’ei-ji. The Hondo (Main Hall) is a square concrete unit, not very attractive. The draw here are the Jizo images; Jizo is the Buddhist deity protecting children, the dead, pregnant women, and travelers. In the mid-19th century, the abbot vowed to erect within the grounds 84,000 Jizo images. He didn’t succeed, but the count is now beyond 20,000.
By now, it’s getting late and I’m exhausted. I guess I should have started this walk at 6 a.m. this morning. I don’t have time to do the rest of the walk before it gets dark or before my legs give out, so I make my way down Kototoi-dori Road back toward the metro stop. I stop into a couple of small shrines along the way, little jewels hidden along a busy road.
This one has a cute dog, who sits quietly as I walk on the grounds. He seems like a friendly fellow.
Another shrine sits further back off the road. It’s quite pretty. The light is fading fast though, so I don’t linger too long.
Finally, I return to Shinobazu-dori and, alas, I’m happy to see the Nezu metro station, one stop further along the Chiyoda line from where I disembarked earlier today. Entering the metro here will save me quite a walk. I’m happy to sit down on the train, at least until I reach the Rapid Express Odakyu Line. On that train, I have to stand on a packed train for 26 minutes until I reach Machida.
The problem with the book Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City is that no distances or times are given. I think this walk was overly ambitious for one day. I could have taken one whole day to visit EACH of the museums in the Tokyo National Museum Complex, plus the Ueno Zoo, Tokyo University and about five more museums, gardens and shrines. I believe Ueno Park and its museums could be a week-long journey!