Ueno Park

Like much of Tokyo, Ueno park is a huge bundle of contradictions. While the park is home to the zoo, the Tokyo National Museum and numerous shrines, cultural and historical points of interest, it is also home to Tokyo’s homeless population.

Besides spending some quality time with the pandas and penguins at the zoo you’ll want to be sure to visit a few key attractions including:

The month of April, when all of Tokyo seems to celebrate cherry blossom season at the park — it can get wild in the park.

The statue of the legendary Samurai Takamori Saigo and his dog. Saigo was a 19th century samurai who led a revolt against the Meiji regime. This is the statue Gen. MacArthur wanted removed because he was afraid it would incite too much nationalistic pride. Ultimately he left the statue where it stands after an enormous public protest.

Also of interest is the Toshugo Shrine (circa 1651) and its path of giant stone lanterns (gifts from feudal lords).

The Kiyomizu-Dokannon Temple is where women wishing to become pregnant come to pray to the Goddess of Mercy (fill in your own punch line). Those who’s prayers are answered return to pray for the health of the child. Many leave dolls behind as a sort of offering. Once a year (in late-September) the dolls are gathered up and burned during a Buddhist ritual.