Translated by Hilary Keyes
The Amazing Golden Ueno Toshogu Shrine: A Great Hanami Spot
Written by IshizawaYoshinori
Ueno Toshogu Shrine, located in Ueno Park, is where the spirit of Tokugawa Ieyasu is enshrined, and is an amazing cherry blossom site as well. Come stroll through the grounds and experience the atmosphere of this shrine for yourself.
What Does Hanami Mean?
If you happen to visit Japan during the spring, you are sure to hear the word ‘hanami’ repeated over and over again. But just what does it mean?
Hanami is a compound word combining ‘hana’ (flowers) and ‘miru’ (to see), and means ‘to see the flowers.’ Now you may be wondering to which flowers this term refers, but if you are visiting Japan in the spring, there is only one flower that people can be talking about sakura or cherry blossoms.
Every year once it reaches the second week of March, people start to wonder: When will they bloom? How long will it last for? What will the weather be like? Where should I see them this year?
We would like to recommend taking in the atmosphere of this refreshing season at Ueno Park, and more particularly, at Ueno Toshogu Shrine, which is located within the park itself.
Walking in Ueno Park
A mere two minute walk from Ueno Station, Ueno Park is an incredible place where you will not only find Ueno Zoo, but several museums and art galleries, other shrines, numerous statues, and much, much more. If you want to know more about what to expect out of a visit to the first public park established in Japan, please read Ueno Park Guide: Ueno Zoo, Museums, Temples and Other Highlights!
To reach Ueno Toshogu, take the Park Exit of Ueno Station and walk in between the two art galleries, as though you were heading towards Ueno Zoo. This route is explained in the above-mentioned article as well.
As the cherry blossoms bloom during the school holidays in Japan, you can expect the park to be especially crowded, even on a weekday. Once you’re inside the grounds of the park itself, you’re sure to notice the crowds of people sitting down and enjoying themselves amid the sakura. This is one of the most typical views of what hanami season in Japan looks like.
As you continue on the route towards the zoo, you will pass by many people drinking and partying. But then, an unexpected colorful area will catch your eye!
This is a small park with rides for children, featuring popular characters like Pikachu, Thomas the Tank Engine, and many, many others. Each ride only costs 100 yen each, or 6 ride tickets for 500 yen, making this a fun place to take children without breaking the bank.
After you pass theses rides, a great torii or shrine gate will appear. This gate stands as the doorway between the world of mortals and the sacred space of the Shinto deities beyond.
This torri, known as Oshi Torii, was built in 1633 and is recognized as being one of Japan’s Important Cultural Properties. Thanks to the highly skilled workers that built it and laid its foundations, this torii was not adversely affected by the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, nor by subsequent earthquakes since.
As this is hanami season, you will find many little shops selling different Japanese festival foods, drinks and other fun items along the road, with plenty of customers enjoying their wares here as well.
Keep walking straight by these vendors, and you will soon see ishitoro, or stone lanterns ahead of you on your left. This change in scenery is very reminiscent of the Japan of the past.
Unusual Lanterns - A Rare Sight in Japan
After passing by the stone lanterns, you will soon see some rather unusual lanterns: they are all made from bronze.
Although the author has lived in Tokyo for over ten years, this is the first time that they have ever encountered lanterns not made from stone at a shrine. The sheer intricacy of the designs lends itself well to the material and leaves the author at a loss for words.
Tokugawa Ieyasu Enshrined
The sight of the bronze lanterns and the golden shrine leaves the author speechless once again, so much so that he even forgot to take pictures of the sakura here, and focussed on the shrine instead! The devotion to Tokugawa and his legacy that this structure evokes in incredible.
To find such a place in this corner of Ueno Park is quite surprising, and a very moving experience. If you would like to feel an overwhelming sense of awe, by all means, please visit this golden shrine and take in the sights of the cherry blossoms as well. You won’t regret it.
Ueno Toshogu Shrine
Address: Tokyo, Taito, Ueno-koen 9-88
Phone Number: 03-3822-3455
Hours: Oct.-Feb. 9:00-16:30, March-Sept. 9:00-17:30
Website: Ueno Toshogu Shrine