When visiting Tokyo in the spring, Ueno Park is a great spot for sakura viewing. Even outside of the cherry blossom season, this popular city park is full of interesting sights.
There are no less than 7 museums, a zoo, a library, and several temples and monuments, as well as a large pond. A day at Ueno Park will give you plenty to do, rain or shine!
We restricted our visit to the eastern side of the park, closest to the Keisei Ueno rail station (the JR Ueno station is also on that side, if you are using a JR transport pass).
Sadly, we were a bit too early for cherry blossoms, though some trees were visibly budding and some were starting to open. Nevertheless, it was a lovely Saturday and the park was full of people sitting on picnic mats, having cherry blossom viewing parties (hanami). The mood was cheery and festive. In typical Japanese fashion, despite the many groups of people, it was all very tidy and organized.
We visited Kiyomizu Kannon-do, the beautiful red temple up on the hill. This Buddhist temple is dedicated to the goddess Kannon, who is known as a goddess of fertility.
It’s a pretty common occurrence in Japan to see Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines side by side. Some Japanese even follow both religions at once. It’s a lovely attitude of openness and harmony!
We then visited the Hanazono Inari Temple. Like the more popular Fushimi Inari-taiza in Kyoto, Hanazono Inari had a set of vermilion torii leading into it. Torii are the gates usually found at the entrance of Shinto shrines. They mark a transition into a sacred space.
Our visit to Ueno Park was short but lovely. Had we more time, we would surely have explored the Tokyo National Museum on the north end of the park. This museum contains a large collection of art and archaeology around Asia, particularly Japan.