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Taito Districts

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Bentendo - Tokyo Tourist Guide

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Bentendo, Taito, Tokyo

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•Ù“V“°

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Bentendou

110-0007 Tokyo, Taito-ku, Ueno Park 1-30  Tel :03-3821-7191 || FAX :03-3821-7193


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             A lot of the construction in the beginning of the 17th Century round Edo Castle was done for two reasons, both of equal importance to its founders, the Shoguns. The first reason was strategic. Edo was to become the military and governmental headquarters of Japan and needed therefore a strong protection. The second had to do with the religious belief of Japan and its very much alive mythology.

Back to Ueno Park

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Bentendo, Ueno, Taito, Tokyo

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             North and Northeast of Edo lies the very important Kanto area, the rice-basket of Japan. There was a lot going on in politics and some very powerful daimyos were the warlords of the Kanto area, who could shift their loyalties quickly to the highest bidder. Temples could easily be converted to fortresses.

              Northeast was also widely believed to be a spiritual bad direction. From the Northeast came bad spirits, plague and pestilence. This belief is still strong today in Japanese architecture. Houses and buildings with their main entrance to the North or Northeast are not to be found.

             In order to ward off all these evil influences the construction of the Kan'ei-ji temple complex Northeast of Edo Castle, in the present Ueno Park area, was therefore a logical step.

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Bentendo, Ueno, Taito, Tokyo

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              When Tenkai Namboko was instructed by Tokugawa Hidetada, the second Shogun and son on Tokugawa Ieyasu to build Kan'ei-ji on the hills of what we know now as Ueno Park, the daimyo Mizunoya Katsutaka created a manmade island in the swamps beside it. On this island, seemingly floating on water, Bentendo was built to ward off evil. The manmade lake became Shinobazu Ike (Shinobazu Pond). Tenkai Namboko, who also became the first head priest of Kan'ei-ji, arranged for a shrine to become the place of worship for Benten, or Benzaiten, the lute-playing goddess of Lake Biwa, one of the Seven Gods of Fortune. She is also the goddess of knowledge and wisdom and even today many visitor come here to pray for success with money and exams.

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Bentendo, Ueno, Taito, Tokyo

             Today it is easy to reach Bentendo, but in the beginning of the 17th century visitors had to cross by boat. Later, towards the end of the 17th century, a stone bridge was constructed, which highly contributed  to the rise in popularity of the temple. Now it is possible to cross the lake on foot via the causeways that divide Shinobazu Ike into three parts.

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Bentendo, Ueno, Taito, Tokyo

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           The main hall on the site was rebuilt in 1958 after its destruction during the Second World War. The original building had been protected as an important cultural asset. It is believed that the current hall is as close to an exact replica as possible. Inside the hall if you look up at the ceiling, you can see a painted Kinryu (golden dragon). This work is also a replica, one of the most difficult of arts, and was painstakingly finished by the painter Kodama Kibo.

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Bentendo, Ueno, Taito, Tokyo

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          Benten can be enjoyed at any time of year. Probably the best way to enjoy the area is to take in a walk covering the approach from Ueno Park to the Benten-do, then walk along the path separating Shinobazu-no-ike and Boto-no-ike walking towards the Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens. If you don't have time to visit the gardens (about 200 meters from the edge of the park), turn left and continue to follow the path around the Shinobazu-no-ike until you reach the Shitamachi Museum. From there, you can either return to Ueno Park or in a short walk reach the Ameyoko arcade shopping areas south of JR Ueno station (Yamanote line).

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•Ùà“V

Benzaiten

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          Benzaiten is the Japanese name for the goddess Saraswati; there was an important river in ancient India of this name. Worship of Benzaiten arrived in Japan during the 6th through 8th centuries, mainly via the Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light, which has a section devoted to her. She is also mentioned in the Lotus Sutra. She is often depicted holding a biwa, which is a traditional Japanese lute.  

          Her Sanskrit name is "Sarasvatî Devî", which means "flowing water", and so Benzaiten is the goddess of everything that flows: water, words (and knowledge, by extension), speech, eloquence, and music. The characters used initially to write her name, read "Biancaitian" in Chinese and "Bensaiten" in Japanese (燍˓V), reflected her role as the goddess of eloquence. Because the Sutra of Golden Light promised protection of the state, in Japan she became a protector-deity, at first of the state and then of people.

          In the end, she became one of the Seven Gods of Fortune, and the Sino-Japanese characters used to write her name changed to •Ùà“V (Benzaiten), which reflects her role in bestowing monetary fortune. Sometimes she is called Benten, although this name refers to the goddess Lakshmi.

          In the Rig-Veda (6.61.7) Sarasvati is credited with killing the three-headed Vritra, also known as Ahi ("snake"). This is probably one of the sources of Sarasvati/Benzaiten's close association with snakes and dragons in Japan. She is enshrined on the Island of Enoshima in Sagami Bay, about 50 kilometers south of Tokyo, and numerous other locations throughout Japan; and she and a five-headed dragon are the central figures of the Enoshima Engi, a history of the shrines on Enoshima written by the Japanese Buddhist monk Kōkei (cŒc) in AD 1047. According to Kōkei, Benzaiten is the third daughter of the dragon-king of Munetsuchi (–³”M’r; literally "lake without heat"), known in Sanskrit as Anavatapta, the lake lying at the center of the world according to an ancient Buddhist cosmological view.

          Benzaiten has been syncretized with some Shinto goddesses.

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Other temples and their deities in Yanaka:

TempleDeity
Tokaku-jiFukurokuju
Seiun-jiEbisu
Shusei-inHotei
Tennou-jiBishamonten
Choan-jiJuroujin
Gokoku-inDaikokuten
BentendoBenzaiten

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How to get to Ueno Koen

Previous Station

Subway Line/Train

Next Station

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Ginza Line

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Ueno-Hirokoji

Ueno Station

7 minute walk

Inaricho

Hibiya Line

Naka-Okachimachi

Ueno Station

7 minute walk

Iriya

Yamanote Line

Okachimachi

Ueno Station

7 minute walk

Uguisudani

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§ 110-0007 Tokyo, Ueno-Koen 1-2
(JR) 2 minute walk from Ueno station Park exit
(Keisei Line) 5 minute walk from Keisei Ueno Station
(Subway) 5 minutes walk from Ueno Station

Bentendo - Tokyo Tourist Guide, •Ù“V“°, Fukurokuju, temples Yanaka, temples Ueno, temples Tokyo, temples Taito, Deities Yanaka, Walking tour Yanaka, Yanaka walking tour, , Tokyo, Japan, city, guide, tourist, travel, hotels, flights, airfares, accommodation, books, museums, Tokyo Museums, Art Galleries, bars, nightclubs, restaurants

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