Explore Ueno

Explore Ueno

by MC2 Matthew Duncker
NAF Atsugi PAO

Sprawled out in northeast Tokyo lies one of the biggest parks in the city,Ueno Imperial Gift Park or Ueno Park. This district of the city is part of Taito City, extending from Ueno train station all the way to Shinobazu Pond. This park is a huge part of what would lead to the modernization of Tokyo and Japan.

Ueno Park was first founded in 1625 by Buddhist monks and was populated by many temples that were destroyed in 1868 during the Boshin War, an event more commonly known as the Meji Restoration, when the Emperor of Japan was restored to power over the Tokugawa Shogunate. The land was privately held by the Imperial family until January 1873 when the government issued a proclamation for the creation of public parks, turning the land into Ueno Park. In 1924,in honor of the Prince Hirohito’s marriage, Ueno Park was presented to the city by Emperor Taisho, receiving the official name that lasts to this day of “Ueno Imperial Gift Park.”

When arriving at Ueno train station visitors will see the entrance to the park by the Ueno Royal Museum. The park covers more than 133 acres and contains over 8,800 trees, the most famous being the Japanese cherry tree which, during the spring, becomes a popular tourist attraction when the sakura (cherry blossoms) are in bloom. Several dancers, magicians and food vendors also populate the area.

Lining up around the north and east sides of the park are the many museums that make Uneo Park an important historical and cultural center of Tokyo. There are eight museums ranging from western art at the National Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo National Museum specializing in historical pieces throughout the region’s history, and the science-focused National Museum of Nature and Science.

On the west side of the park is the Ueno Zoo which was originally founded in 1881 as part of the National Museum of Natural History. The zoo is home to 3,000 individual animals making up more than 400 different species and is the largest zoo in Japan. Notable animals found at the park include snow monkeys, pandas, tigers, gorillas and other animals found throughout Asia. The nation’s first monorail was constructed in the zoo and connects the upper and lower half of the area for park guests. When exiting, visitors will come across a small amusement park for children featuring a roller coaster and a carousel.

At the southernmost tip of the park a shrine and mausoleum was built for one of the country’s greatest warlords of the Sengoku (warring states), Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa Shogun whose family ruled Japan for almost 300 years before the Boshin War. Visitors can purify themselves at a well and pray to

the Tokugawa shrine.

Ueno is a district of Tokyo steeped in history of the past but was also known for being very forward and an example of the westernization of Japan. In this one area was one the first public parks, zoos and museums founded for the benefit of not just the ruling class of this nation, but for all people from around the world to enjoy. Here one can learn about the much storied history of Japan before walking out into the modern heart of the nation.

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