Lonely Planet review
There are two entrances to Tokyo’s oldest park. The main one takes you into the museum area, but for the temples, it’s better to start at the southern entrance by Keisei Ueno Station – take the Ikenohata exit and turn right. Just around the corner is a flight of stairs leading up into the park.
Situated slightly to your right at the top of the stairs is a statue of Saigō Takamori . Fans of the film The Last Samurai should note that Katsumoto, the character played by Ken Watanabe, was loosely based on Takamori, a legendary Tokugawa loyalist. Today he remains an exemplar of the samurai spirit in Japan.
Continue along the way, bear to the far left and follow a wide tree-lined path until you reach Kiyōmizu Kannon-dō , modelled after the landmark Kiyōmizu-dera (Kiyomizu Temple) in Kyoto. During Ningyō-kuyō, those wishing to conceive a child leave a doll here for the Senjū Kannon (the 1000-armed Buddhist goddess of mercy), and the accumulated dolls are burnt ceremoniously every 25 September.
From the temple, continue down to the narrow road that follows the pond named Shinobazu-ike . Passing through a red torii (gate), located on an island in the pond, you’ll find Benten-dō , a memorial to Benten, a patron goddess of the arts. You can hire a small rowboat to take out on the water.
Make your way back to the road that follows Shinobazu-ike and turn left. Where the road begins to curve and leaves Shinobazu-ike behind, there is a stair pathway to the right. Follow this path and take the second turn to the left. This will take you into the grounds of Tōshō-gū , devoted to the shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Inside, the shrine is all black lacquerwork and gold leaf. Miraculously, the entire structure has survived all of Tokyo’s many disasters, making it one of the few surviving early Edo structures. There’s a good view of the 17th-century, five-storey pagoda Kanei-ji , now stranded inside Ueno Zoo.
The cherry-blossom viewing spots are impossible to miss – just look for the many revellers under the cherries along the main walkways in the park.