The symbol of Ueno Park is the statue of a person with a dog. This is a bronze statue of Takamori Saigo, who was an active and famous samurai in the 19th century. The statue was designed from the fact that he liked going hunting with his pet dog.
Ueno Park is a cherry blossom viewing spot where you can enjoy around 1,200 cherry blossom trees. The area of the park used to be the premises of a temple called Kan'ei-ji. The person who started the temple ordered cherry trees from Kyoto and planted them on the precincts. Kan'ei-ji Temple has graveyard for shogun. It is said that they allowed people to visit the temple and enjoy the cherry blossoms during that season.
The park area is also called Ueno Mountain. You may wonder why it is called "mountain" when there are no mountains. The area looks flat, but actually it is on high ground. Geographically the area is on the rising ground called Uenodai, which is the reason why it came to be called Ueno Mountain.
Ueno has a very rare statue of Buddha without the body. It has a sad history. It had a full-length figure of about six meters when it was built in 1631. However, it suffered from several disasters including earthquakes. The body was destroyed, but the face remained. Though it has only a face, many people come to see it to pray for success in their examinations because the statue overcame many difficulties and has nothing left to lose.
Ueno Park has many museums. This was the idea of the first director of the Tokyo National Museum. He came up with the idea in the hopes of making Ueno Park an area for museums. Among the many museums, the National Museum of Nature and Science, which is a representative museum of Japan, is a must-see. In Japan Gallery, the stuffed dog who was a model for the movie "Hachi" is displayed.
Photo: National Museum of Nature and Science
The area all around Ueno Park is called Shitamachi. There is a distinctive style specific to the area. The town where ordinary people live is called Shitamachi, and many of them were engaged in commerce and the town was vibrant with the voices of vendors. At the Shitamachi Museum, you can learn about the life of those people. You can go inside an old Japanese house which is displayed there and have a memorable experience.
The island in Shinobazu Pond is Nakanoshima. Nowadays there is a bridge to the island, but in around 1630 it was a place where you could only get to by boat. At Bentendo on Bentenjima, Benzaiten is enshrined and regarded as being responsive to prayers for good academic and artistic performances, good fortune, and good marriage.
Established in 1882, Ueno Zoo is the first zoo in Japan. It started as a facility attached to a governmental museum situated in Ueno Park. So there were animals, but people couldn't see them. In 1924, Emperor Showa got married and to commemorate this, the zoo was opened to the people living in Tokyo.
The baseball field located in the park is the Masaoka Shiki Memorial Baseball Ground. It was built in relation to the popular haiku poet Masaoka Shiki, who enjoyed playing baseball in Ueno Park.
At Ueno Toshogu Shrine, a tanuki (raccoon dog) is enshrined as a deity. Students preparing for examinations and people who want to win a game visit the shrine. As for why tanuki is a deity, the reading of the word "tanuki" is the same as another word meaning to excel against others, so it is considered lucky. Visit the shrine if you have an examination or a game coming up.
*This information is from the time of this article's publication.