Serialization about Ueno Park-03 Former Kan’ei-ji Five-storied Pagoda (上野公園シリーズ-03 旧寛永寺五重塔)

The five-storied pagoda in Ueno was erected by Toshikatsu Doi in 1631 as a part of Toshogu Shrine (built in 1627). Toshikatsu Doi was a roju (member of the shogun’s council of elders) and General magistrate for the construction of Toeizan Kan’ei-ji Temple. At that time, based on the idea of Shinbutsu Shugo (syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism), the shrine Toshogu was built within the ground of the temple Kan’ei-ji.

This five-storied pagoda was burnt down due to an accidental fire by people viewing the cherry blossoms in 1639. It was immediately rebuilt in the same year by Munehiro Koura and others. Munehiro Koura was a leading architect of the time who also made major renovations to Nikko Toshogu Shrine. This is the five-storied pagoda that still exists today.

It survived the Great Kanto Earthquake (1923) and escaped from being destroyed by fire during the Boshin War (1868) and the Second World War (1944), but the five-storied pagoda was in danger in the Meiji era. The Ordinance Distinguishing between Shinto and Buddhism issued in 1868 triggered a movement for the abolition of Buddhism, and the five-storied pagoda of Ueno Toshogu Shrine was also targeted for demolition. It was said that the priest at that time offered to the country that the five-storied pagoda belonged to Kan’ei-ji Temple, so it escaped demolition. Since then, it has survived as the five-storied pagoda of Kan’eiji Temple.

In 1958 this five-storied pagoda was donated to Tokyo. Because of the distance from Kan’ei-ji Temple, it was difficult to manage it. Most of the buildings of Kan’ei-ji Temple were destroyed by fire during the Boshin War at the end of the Edo era, and since the Meiji era, most of the temple grounds have been turned into a park where citizens can relax and enjoy themselves, including museums, art galleries, and a zoo. The five-storied pagoda is currently located in the Ueno Zoo, so you need to enter the zoo to see it up close.

I have been wondering why the five-storied pagoda is called the Former Kan’ei-ji Five-storied Pagoda and why there is a fence between Toshogu Shrine and the five-storied pagoda. Now, I understand why. Next time I’m going to enter the zoo to see it up close. For reference, I posted a photo of the whole image of the five-storied pagoda taken in Ueno zoo which I found on line.