Parks may not be the first thing people think of when they think of Tokyo, but in fact this megalopolis of a city does in fact have many parks and quite possibly the park most popular with locals is Ueno Park. Ueno Park is a vast green space in the city that is also home to a number of cultural sites and museums:
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The easiest way to get to Ueno Park is to take the subway to you guessed it, Ueno Station:
The Ueno District of Tokyo really does not have much to check out other than Ueno Park. It is a working class neighborhood that I actually used as a base for a one week visit before to Tokyo:
I stayed in a small hotel in Ueno that was roughly $75 a night and had a English speaking guest clerk. I eventually found out her English was actually quite limited, but she knew enough to help me check in and out of the hotel. Something else I liked about the hotel I stayed at was that they also had a free breakfast. It was a Japanese style breakfast, but I still enjoyed it. So for a traveler looking for cheap lodging in Tokyo that is close to a major railway station Ueno is definitely worth checking out:
Ueno Park is popular with locals because of not only the green space it provides, but also for the long, wide tree lined paths that are great for evening strolls and bike riding:
There is also plenty of water in the park as well which is evident by the lake filled with the biggest lily pads I have ever seen:
There is also a part of the lake that is left free of the lily pads so visitors can rent these small paddle boats and enjoy the view of this very unusual looking apartment building:
What I liked the best about the park was the historic and cultural sites sprinkled throughout the park such as the walkway lined with old stone lanterns:
Here is a close up look at some of these lanterns:
I thought the morning sunlight on these historic stone lanterns came out really nicely on this below photograph:
There was also a total of 50 bronze lanterns along the path as well:
I would find out that each of these lanterns was an offering from a Daimyo to the shrine of Tokugawa Ieyasu located in the park.
Here is a stone statue that was located next to the lanterns as well:
These lanterns were all located on the way to see the main cultural attraction in the park which is the Toshogu Shrine:
This shrine was built in 1627 in commemoration of Tokugawa Ieyasu who was the founder of the Tokugawa Dynasty and aruably the greatest ruler in Japanese history. Because he was such a great ruler his descendants and followers ended up creating various shrines across the country to deify the man to lend continuing legitimacy to the Shogunate that he founded.
Not to far from the Toshogu Shrine was this pretty cool tunnel of torii gates:
After checking out the torii gates I then went to check out another popular cultural attraction in the park, the Kaneiji Temple:
The temple was built in 1631 and destroyed in 1868 during a battle during the Meiji Restoration that occurred in Ueno Park. The temple today is a remake, but it is still interesting to see what the temple looked like before its destruction.
Another popular site at the park is the statue of Saigo Takamori:
For anyone that has watched Tom Cruise’s, “The Last Samurai” this movie was actually loosely based off of the story of Saigo Takamori. After the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Takamori and has samurai allies fought a guerrilla war on the southern island of Kyushu against the Meiji government that was attempting to modernize Japan. Takamori was actually once part of the Meiji Restoration and even led troops during the revolution. Due to various differences with the government to include the modernization of the country Takamori led a rebellion against the changes. Eventually Takamori and his men were defeated by government forces, but he lives on in the Japanese psyche as someone who died for a cause he believed in which epitomized samurai virtues that is admired in Japan.
As I continued my walk through the park I spent a few minutes watching this one man band that was actually quite impressive:
The final place I checked out in Ueno Park was the Tokyo National Museum:
This was actually the main reason I even came to the park and everything else I saw in Ueno Park was just a nice side benefit to visiting the museum. I could not take pictures in the museum due to rules that forbid photography, but I spent hours here reading through all the displays the documents Japan’s long and fascinating history. Needless to say there wasn’t a whole lot on the World War II era unfortunately.
There is plenty of more to see in this park such as various other museums and even a zoo. For those that have limited time in the city a visit to the park is not a must see though the Tokyo National Museum for those interested in Japanese culture and history is a must see attraction. For anyone spending more than 3 days in Tokyo definitely make a trip over to the park and take a walk around because it is quite a beautiful park and worth the time to go over to Ueno to check out.