Walking among the thousands of trees in Tokyo’s Ueno Park you can’t believe how lovely it is! Magical really! The branches are overflowing with blossoms and they stretched out over our heads creating canopies of pink, white and blue sky. I didn’t know where to point my camera first! Of course everyone else wants to take a photo too, so you have to be careful to look where you’re going. There aren’t just thousands of beautiful trees, but thousands of people too! As many as two million people might come to see the blossoms in a given year.
This activity is called Hanami which literally translates to “flower viewing” and it is popular activity for all ages. So much so that the sakura blossom forecast is reported by local weather forecasters. Additionally, there are websites you can visit that will help you determine the different bloom forecasts depending on where and when you plan to visit. And of course there are sakura festivals in many places. It’s quite popular for the younger generations to picnic under the blooming trees and while we didn’t do this ourselves we did have the opportunity to walk through the park and see the literally hundreds of people picnicking! It did look fun!
Beyond The Blossoms
There are many things to see and do in Ueno Park beyond hanami. We discovered fabulous food stalls, a shrine, the remnants of a giant Buddha statue, beautiful torii gates, the Ueno Zoo and swan boats in Shinobazu Pond. There are also a number of large museums, but even with multiple visits we simply ran out of time.
I’m not sure if the food stalls are in the park all year round, but there were many food options when we were there and Elliot did his best to hit every single one! He wanted to stop at practically every place and try something new. Many places in Japan don’t take debit cards or credit cards and we actually ran out of cash before Elliot was done eating!
Shinobazu Pond is located within Ueno Park and there is a lovely island right in the middle. During the sakura festival the pathway leading there is lined with even more food options! We found some yummy desserts and then visited The Bentendo Temple. I read that the temple is dedicated to the Goddess of good fortune, wealth, music, and knowledge. I like it!
There is a pedal boat ride in the pond and the boats are colorful swans! The boys really wanted to go for a ride, but the swans only held three people at a time, so I spent some time taking photos of the shrine and more blossom photos while they pedaled around with Tim. Perfect!
The Ueno Great Buddha
Located just up the hill from the main avenue of cherry trees is the face of what was once a very large statue of Buddha. This was the second great Buddha to stand in this spot. The first one was destroyed in an earthquake in 1647! The second one was also heavily damaged in the 1923 earthquake. Only the face remains because the rest of the 3.6 meter tall statue was melted down to make weapons in WWII.