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From Inlet to Icon: The Story of Shinobazunoike Pond in Tokyo



2023.10.05 (Thu)

By Dan Lewis, inbound tourism adviser and consultant, long-term Japan resident & outdoor activity enthusiast.

In the heart of the bustling metropolis of Tokyo lies an urban oasis - Ueno Onshi Park, also known as Ueno Park - a haven of tranquility amidst the city's vibrant energy. At its center is Shinobazunoike Pond stands as a watery wonder whose history is as captivating as its scenic beauty, enchanting visitors throughout the year.

Centuries ago, during the Muromachi period, this pond was an inlet of Tokyo Bay. However, as time passed, the shoreline receded, leaving behind the picturesque pond we see today. The construction of Toeizan Kan'eiji Temple further transformed the pond, modeling it after Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture. The temple's hall, Benten-do, is a unique structure, its octagonal shape inviting visitors from all directions. As evening descends, the hall is enveloped by a gentle illumination, heightening its already alluring appeal.

Once the sacred grounds of Kan'eiji, Ueno Onshi Park now stands as a sanctuary, exuding an aura of spirituality. Spanning 2 kilometers and divided into three sections, Shinobazu Pond invites visitors to explore its diverse flora and observe the flourishing wildlife. The pond is a vibrant ecosystem, celebrated for lotus viewing and as a haven for migratory and resident birds.

Among the avian population, black-headed gulls have become more prevalent, while beneath the surface, carp and various fish species abound. In summer, the pond transforms into a natural tapestry of beauty with the proliferation of lotus flowers.

In 2006, the discovery of the alligator snapping turtle hinted at possible natural breeding, highlighting the pond's role as a thriving habitat. Precautions have been taken to educate visitors about their significance within the ecosystem.

This watery haven was once a bustling waterway during the Muromachi period and continues to be cherished for its seasonal beauty. Spring heralds the arrival of cherry blossoms, while summer adorns the pond with blooming lotus flowers, creating a picturesque panorama of vibrant colors.

This pond's significance is not just historical and ecological, but also spatial. It sits at the southern end of Ueno Onshi Park, bordered by the Ueno Zoo West Garden, Keisei Ueno Station, and Shinobazu Street. The pond comprises three distinct sections: the Lotus Pond, the Boat Pond, and the Cormorant Pond, each offering a unique perspective on this natural marvel.

Shinobazunoike Pond stands as a testament to the rich history and natural beauty that coexist within the heart of Tokyo. Its waters whisper echoes of centuries past, while its vibrant ecosystem teems with life. A visit to this urban oasis promises a journey through time and a communion with nature, a respite from the urban clamor just beyond its borders.

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