Benetendo Temple in Tokyo

Photo of Benetendo Temple in Tokyo, Kanto
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Benetendo Temple

1-2 Ueno-Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo Japan
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This little temple at the center of the Shinobazu pond in Ueno is often overlooked. The real stars of the show are the lotus flowers in the water and the dozens of bird species that call this marshy urban oasis home.

The current temple was erected in 1958, but the area's temple history goes back to 1625 when a temple complex was erected in Ueno as an eastern outpost of the Enryakuji monastery near Kyoto that is the home of the Tendai Buddhists. The small island is man-made and inspired by an island in Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake. For a long time the only way to get to the temple was by boat, but eventually the eastern bridge was built. Most of the temple complex was destroyed over the centuries by various wars.

The temple that stands today is dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten, and Indian goddess of everything that flows. This is appropriate because the small pond you see today was at one time a link between the Aizomegawa River, made famous in Japanese poetry, and Tokyo Bay. That link was severed over the years by a number of agriculture, entertainment, and urbanization projects.

Quick Facts
  • Construction start: 1958
  • Construction finish: 1958
  • Type: Holy Place
  • Stories: 1
    1625: The first temple complex is built at this location.
    1868: Much of the complex is destroyed in the Boshin War.
    1884: Part of the pond is filled in to make a horse racing track.
    1907: The western bridge (Kangetsukyo Bridge) is erected.
    1929: The pond is further divided into four chambers.
    1939: A boat rental business begins here.
    1941: The pond is drained and turned into rice paddies to help grow food during World War II.
    1945: The temple on the Brenten Island is destroyed in World War II.
    1949: The pond is re-flooded.
    1958: The current temple is erected.
    1967: Construction of a subway tunnel accidentally punches a hole in the bottom of the pond, draining much of it.
Did You Know?
    > The Shinobazu pond is mentioned in a number of pieces of historic Japanese literature, including Mori Ogai's Gan and Yasunari Kawabata's Boshi Jiken. It is also pictured in several historic woodcuts.
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