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Ueno Park

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  • Japanese: 上野公園 (Ueno kouen)

Ueno Park is a major public park in Tokyo, and the first public park in Japan. Located on the former grounds of the Tokugawa clan patron temple of Kan'ei-ji, it served as a major site of national ceremonies, expositions, and events in the Meiji period, and is today home to a number of major national institutions, including the Tokyo National Museum, Ueno Zoo, Tokyo University of the Arts, and Museum of Western Art, among others.

Kan'ei-ji, albeit considerably shrunken, continues to stand to one side of the park; Ueno Tôshôgû, an Inari shrine, and several other Shinto shrines can also be found in the park. Other notable sights in the park include a statue of Saigô Takamori designed by Takamura Kôun and unveiled in 1898, and a gravesite for the Shôgitai, established in 1869 and expanded in 1874.

History

Following the establishment of Kan'ei-ji in 1626, Mizuno Katsutaka, lord of Shimodate han, had an island built in the middle of the pond which lay within the temple grounds, and constructed a hall dedicated to the deity Benten atop it, in emulation of the Benten Hall on Chikubushima at the center of Lake Biwa. This large, lotus-filled, pond, known as Shinobazu Pond, continues today to dominate the southwestern portion of Ueno Park. Though originally accessible only by small boats, the Benten Hall was connected to the outer edges of the pond by stone bridges in the 1660s or early 1670s, and remains connected and easily accessible today. This Benten Hall was destroyed in air raids in 1945, but was rebuilt by September 1958. The chief objects of worship within the hall include a statue of Benten supposedly made by Ennin himself, along with images of Daikokuten and Bishamonten. A golden dragon on the ceiling of the hall was painted by Kodama Kibô; an ink painting of a dragon by Tani Bunchô dating to 1832 is also visible on the ceiling of the handwashing station in front of the hall.[1]

Following the destruction of Kan'ei-ji in the 1868 battle of Ueno, there were proposals to build a hospital on the temple's former grounds. However, Dutch physician A.F. Bauduin advocated preserving the site for its natural beauty, and so Ueno Park was established as Japan's first public park in 1873, while Kan'ei-ji was restored on a much shrunken grounds nearby.[2]

A grand reception for Ulysses S. Grant, held in 1879, was one of the first major public events held in the park. The park also served as the site for a number of major expositions and events, including the first three Domestic Industrial Expositions, held there in 1877, 1881, and 1890; the first modern museum-style exhibition of the works of Hokusai, in 1900; and the first Bunten (Ministry of Education Arts Salon) in 1907.

References

  1. Plaque at Benten Hall, Shinobazu Pond.[1]
  2. Plaque on bust of Bauduin in Ueno Park.
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