Konpon Chu-do of Kan’eiji Temple in Spring

Japanese Temple | Kan’eiji Temple


Do you know about Japanese temples? Kan’eiji Temple today has been reduced to one-tenth of its size during the Edo era. At 4T-AMKY, Teachers and Students write about Japanese culture, food, history, many spots to visit, and other stuff. Enjoy reading and knowing about deeper Japanese culture!

Kan’eiji Temple


In my previous Ueno Park series, I mentioned that “in 1625, Tenkai priest opened Toeizan Kan’eiji Temple on the mountain of Ueno, but most of the buildings were destroyed by fire during the Ueno War at the end of the Edo era, and most of the grounds of the temple became Ueno Park.” Then, what is Kan’eiji Temple like today? I visited Ueno Park several times to confirm this.

The top photo shows the Konpon Chu-do of Kan’eiji Temple in spring. I also took a picture of a map of Toeizan that I found on the back cover of a booklet that I obtained there and posted it here. You can see the location of Toeizan Kan’eiji Temple and Ueno Park.

A map of Toeizan
A map of Toeizan
Konpon Chu-do

The Konpon Chu-do, built in 1698 by the fifth Shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa, was originally located in the Fountain Square present-day Ueno Park, but was destroyed by fire during the Ueno War at the end of the Edo era. In 1879, the main hall (built in 1638 by the third Shogun Iemitsu Tokugawa) was moved from Kita-in Temple in Kawagoe and reconstructed as Konpon Chu-do at the current site (west side of the Tokyo National Museum), the former site of Daiji-in Temple, a child temple. The two bronze lanterns in front of the hall are said to date back to the time the temple survived the war.

Konpon Chu-do of Kan’eiji Temple in fall
Konpon Chu-do of Kan’eiji Temple in fall

This hall was founded in 1644 and enshrines Tenkai priest (Jigendaishi) as the founder of Toeizan. The temple is generally called Ryo-daishi because it also enshrines Ryogen (Jietaishi), a Buddhist priest who was revered by Tenkai. It is located east of the current Tokyo National Museum and north of the National Museum of Nature and Science. After suffering frequent fires, the current hall was rebuilt in 1993.

The former Honbo Omote-mon gate of Kan’eiji Temple

The former Honbo Omote-mon gate of Kan’eiji Temple was built in 1625 on the present site of the Tokyo National Museum. The scale of the Kan’eiji Hombo (main temple) was magnificent, but it was destroyed by fire during the Ueno War in 1866, and only the front gate escaped the flames. It was used as the main gate when the National Museum was established, but was moved after the Great Kanto Earthquake and is now the main gate of Rinno-den, which is located on the same grounds as Kaisan-do. It is a National Important Cultural Property. The gate still bears many bullet holes from the attack by the government forces.

The former Honbo Omote-mon gate of Kan’eiji Temple
The former Honbo Omote-mon gate of Kan’eiji Temple
Kuromon gate (Main gate of Kan’eiji Temple)

The former Honbo Omote-mon gate is also called Kuromon, but it is not the Kuromon gate that was located on the site of the Shogitai troops’ battle in the Ueno War. The Kuromon gate, located at the site of the greatest battle of the Ueno War, is the main gate of Kan’eiji Temple. At the park entrance (Keisei Ueno Station side), where the Kuromon gate once stood, a wall fountain has now been built to represent the Kuromon gate.

I visited the Kuromon gate, which survived the war, after learning that it was moved to the Entsuji temple precincts in Minami-Senju in 1907. As the bodies of Shogitai troops who lost their lives fighting the government forces were abandoned on a mountain in Ueno, the priest of Entsuji Temple cremated them there and brought the remains back to Entsuji Temple for a memorial service. From then on, Entsuji Temple became a center for memorial services for the dead of the former shogunate forces.

Entsuji Temple in Minami-Senju
Entsuji Temple in Minami-Senju

Entsuji Temple is a Soto Zen temple located in Minami-Senju. It is said that it was founded by Tamuramaro Sakanoue in 791. There are also graves of Shogitai troops in the precincts of the temple. The Kuromon gate still bears many bullet holes. I felt as if I could sense the tremendous intensity of the battle. I joined my hands in prayer, thinking that I am now living as an extension of such history.

Kuromon gate moved to Entsuji temple in Minami-Senju from Kan’eiji Temple in Ueno
Kuromon gate moved to Entsuji temple in Minami-Senju from Kan’eiji Temple in Ueno
Statue of Dr. Bauduin

In a corner of the Children’s Square between the Great Fountain in Ueno Park and the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, I came across a statue of Dr. Bauduin, a Dutch physician. Dr. Bauduin came to Nagasaki in 1862 to teach medical science and helped establish a medical school at the request of the Meiji government.

A statue of Dr. Bauduin, a Dutch physician, in Ueno Park
A statue of Dr. Bauduin, a Dutch physician, in Ueno Park

At the time, the government was planning to build a hospital affiliated with a medical school on the mountain of Ueno. However, Dr. Bauduin objected, lamenting the loss of forest greenery. It is said that he suggested, “If Tokyo did not have a large park, it would not qualify as a capital city, and you should create a place for citizens to relax.” Consequently, in 1873, Japan’s first park, Ueno Park, was established.

I had taken it for granted that there was a park in Ueno, but I was deeply impressed to learn that it was thanks to a Dutch physician. If it were not for his recommendations, if there were now hospitals lining Ueno…I can’t imagine it well. I am grateful that Kan’eiji Temple and the park coexist on the mountains of Ueno as Ueno Park, and I involuntarily joined my hands in prayer before the bronze statue.













焼け残った黒門は、1907年(明治40年)に南千住の円通寺境内に移築された、と分かったので訪ねてみました。官軍と戦い、命を落とし、上野の山に野ざらしとなっていた彰義隊士の遺体を、円通寺の住職が現地で火葬し、遺骨を円通寺に持ち帰って供養したそうです。 それ以来、円通寺は旧幕府軍の戦死者を供養する拠点となったということです。