The change of weather here in the Philippines has really reminded me of the changing seasons. Soon, it will be springtime in places like Japan, and I find myself feeling wistful for all the traveling I haven’t done in the past year. I’ve been good at keeping the wanderlust at bay, but right now it’s hitting me at full force. And so here I am, settling for simply writing about past trips I still haven’t posted about. Let’s live vicariously through memories for now.
Back in April 2019, I was able to visit Tokyo for a few days and we hit up typical places like Ueno Park, and some atypical places too. I can’t pinpoint why I always end up snapping so many photos when I travel to Japan no matter how short the trip is. Everything there seems a hundred times prettier and more fascinating. Even something as trivial as a tree branch or a leaf becomes picture-worthy, and I have so many photos of those in this post lol.
So I finally managed to make my way to Ueno Park on this particular visit to Tokyo. Exploring outdoor locations in Japan when it’s spring or autumn is probably one of the best things you can gift your soul, because there are no words to describe the peace it can bring. It’s no wonder the locals never tire of picnicking and staring at sakura (or koyo for that matter) year in and year out. It’s magic.
Ueno Park is one of Tokyo’s most popular hanami spots, and I can just imagine what this place looks like at the peak of a normal hanami season. Picnic blankets would be lined up underneath sakura trees, and you’d hear laughter and chatter as colorful as the feasts laid out. One of these days, I will really make sure to experience actual hanami rather than always just catching the tail end of the sakura season.
There are a lot of things to see here in Ueno Park if you put your mind to it, but we ended up walking around without a plan. Our intention in coming here was to just enjoy nature and not really to visit any of the museums or temples located within the vicinity. (No, not even the famous Ueno Park Starbucks lol.)
We finally found a nice photo spot by the three-part Shinobazu Pond. It’s a quiet corner with tables and benches, and you are welcome to have some snacks here or just look out onto the pond in quiet contemplation. We opted for a mix of the latter, plus a little photoshoot, and it seemed like the other couple of people there with us had the same idea.
I call Shinobazu Pond three-part because it is literally divided into three sections: the Boat Pond, the Cormorant Pond, and the Lotus Pond. You can actually rent different boats and float around the Boat Pond for 600 to 700 yen. Meanwhile, the Cormorant Pond is the favorite hangout place for birds. I didn’t spot that many cormorants though. Sadly, the lotus in the Lotus Pond are only in bloom from July to August, so all we saw were stalks of brown sticking out of the water. (Maybe the cormorants were hiding in there?)
The Shinobazu Pond is without a doubt my favorite part of Ueno Park. I loved looking at it from the side with the benches, where it’s framed by the weeping willows.
Sitting at the center of the pond is the Shinobazu no Ike Benten-do. You get here by walking down a stone bridge lined with food stalls. It’s a small but pretty Buddhist temple dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten, and the reason why they built her temple on a pond is because she is associated with the element of water. And just like how water flows, Benzaiten is also associated with other flowing things, like words, wisdom, wealth, and music.
Benzaiten is said to grant good fortune in aspects of academic study, arts, and relationships. A lot of people come and pray to her for these things, which is why a lot of Benten-do temples are scattered all over Japan, usually close to some form of water. Even if you’re not a Buddhist, you can still come here and offer a respectful prayer. It’s a nice way to end a visit to Ueno Park, I think. Next time, I might drop by the National Museum of Western Art to see their collection of Monet paintings. (And the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art if time permits.)
How to get to Ueno Park:
- On the JR Yamanote Line, alight at JR Ueno Station, then exit through ‘Park Exit’
- On the Keisei Honsen Line, alight at Keisei Ueno Station
- On the Tokyo Metro Ginza line (G), alight at Ueno Station
Other posts in this series:
- A brief visit and lunch at Ameyayoko Market
- A lovely visit to Meiji Shrine
- An excursion to Yanaka-Ginza & Takeshita Street
- A view of Shibuya from Hoshino Coffee
- Touring around Yamanashi’s Fuji Five Lakes & Oshino Hakkai
- The crowded but glorious Nezu Shrine
- My Favorite Tokyo Snapshots, Sample Itinerary, & Travel Video
- Some memorable Tokyo Eats from Spring of 2019
- Japanese Food Souvenir Haul from Tokyo Spring 2019 [Vol. 6]