Mausoleums of Tokugawa Shogunate Family and the Asakura Statuary Museum are located on the northeast end of“Shinobuga-Oka”Hill which is extended along the sector between Uguisudani Station and Nippori Station of JR Yamanote-Line. Both the historic sights are highly recommended for overseas visitors to visit at least once.

A Mausoleum of Tokugawa Shogunate Family

                                           Ueno Kaneiji Temple was a tutelary temple for Tokugawa Shogunate family.Its construction was started on the Sinobuga-Oka Hill by ”Daisojyo Tenkai”(a Buddhist priest of the highest order) under the patronage of the first Shogun, Ieyasu Tokugawa in the beginning of Edo period. (In 1,622).

Tennkai took active part in the policies of religion and imperial court as a close strategist for Ieyasu Tokugawa in the Tokugawa Shogunate. Tenkai also played the important role even for 2nd Shogun, Hidetada Tokugawa and 3rd Iemitsu Tokugawa.

The Shinobuga-Oka Hill is lying to the northeast direction of the Edo Castle where Tokugawa family was living.From way back, people superstitiously believed that demons are coming from the northeast direction. They called the direction “Kimon (Demon’s Gate). It appears that the idea comes from Feng Shui, Chinese fundamental philosophy of Yi and Yang. The concept of duality, the principle that things have two states. Because of the idea, the Kaneiji temple on Shinobuga-Oka Hill was believed to spiritually protect Tokugawa family in Edo castle from devils coming from the north- east.

The construction of all buildings in the temple complex had been completed with the inauguration of the main prayer’s hall named “Konponchudo” Hall in the time of 5th Shogun, Tsunayoshi Tokugawa in 1698. After his death, Tsunayoshi Tokugawa was buried in the cemetery of the Kaneiji Temple where other 5 successive generations of Shoguns were also laid to rest. The Kaneiji Temple is now regarded as one of Tokugawa’s family temple as well as the Zojyoji Temple in Shiba area in Tokyo.At the height of their prosperity, Kaneiji owned a vast area of approximately 248 acres (One million square meters) that was about twice wider that current Ueno
Park. They controlled 36 affiliate temples. They were the largest and influential temple in Edo City.

There used to be a huge and splendid Kanneiji Temple Complex on Shinobuga-Oka Hill. There stood various gorgeous buildings such as a black front gate, a Monjyudo prayer’s hall with two-story structure, Jyogyodo prayer’s hall being connected via a roofed passage with Hokkedo prayer’s hall and a main prayer’s hall called Konponchudo Hall. Among them, the Konponchudo Hall sat up with a dignified appearance in the center of the temple complex. (With 45.5M in length, 42M in width and 32M in height.)  Behind the hall there used to be a residence of head priest named Honin-Bo. However, all these valuable buildings were burnt down during a civil war called Boshin civil war that happened between Tokugawa royalists and imperial royalists on Shinobuga-Oka Hill in 1869.

Since then the former site of Kaneiji Temple Complex was converted into a public park called Ueno Park. At present a pond with rows of water jets is located at the site of former Kononchudo prayer’s hall. And the Tokyo National Museum stands at the side of a former head priest’s residence. The main gate of the residence is relocated in front of current Rinouden funeral ceremony hall (a part of current Kaneiji Temple) at the east extremity of Ueno Park.Even today, the gate still has bullet and artillery shell holes which were made during. Boshin Civil War. That is showing us the furious battle of Boshin civil war on Shinobuga-Oka Hill.

The current Konponcgudo Hall of Kaneiji is placed in the north edge of Shinobuga-Oka Hill. It is standing on the site where the former Daijiinn Temple (An affiliate temple of Kaneiji) used to be located. The building was the main prayer’s hall of Kita-In Temple in Kawagoe city in Saitama prefecture. It was moved to this site in 1870.Ever since it has replaced the former building as New Konponchudo Hall.

In the current Konnponchudo prayer’s hall, the Yakushi-Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru) isworshiped as a principal image. It is said to be created by the founder of Tendai Sect in Japanese Buddhism, “Denkyo-Daishi Saicho”. The principal image is followed by 2 attendant images, Nikko-Bosatsu (Suryaprabha) and Gekko-Bosatsu (Candraprabha) which were made by a head priest named Ennin of Hieizann Enryakuji Temple in Kyoto.

A panoramic view of the Kaneiji Temple Complex is drawn in Multi-colored wood block print on a bulletin board on the right side of the stairs going up into the main prayer’s hall. The pictures carry our minds back to the former gorgeous Kaneiji Temple complex in good old times.

Even more on the right side, they display the huge ridge end tile on the roof of former Konponchuudo prayer’s hall and the ridge end tile on the roof of the former main priest’s residential building.

Turning toward the left side of the main prayer’s hall, there is an old-fashioned porch in front of a vestibule. That is a remnant of the former Daijiin temple. (One of an affiliate temple of Kaneiji temple).

Passing through under a roofed bridge spanned between the building of the Daijiin and the main prayer’s hall, we can catch a glimpse of the annex building and its backyard through the lattice transoms of the roofed wooden fence. That is the historical place where the last Shogun, Yosinobu Tokugawa confined himself when he returned his governing power of Japan to the Meiji Emperor. He was putting himself at the emperor’s disposal. The room where he was spending his confined time, remains as it was and is called “Aoi-No-Ma Room’.

Further proceeding, we can come to the cemetery of Kaneji Temple which is extending along the slop of Shinobuga-Oka Hill to JR Uguisudani station.About 65 years ago, this area used to be a shadowy grove. And it was called “Otamaya”, a sacred mausoleum of Tokugawa family. Only kids in the neighborhood often sneaked into the grove and enjoyed climbing up trees and building a tree house shelter on the branch. After the world war II. the ground other than the mausoleums is leveled and the most of woods were removed. Nowadays there is the cemetery as Kaneiji temple is opened to the public. There are 2 mausoleums of Tokugawa family in the cemetery. One mausoleum is located in a small grove, being surrounded by a stone wall on the west side of the cemetery. There 5th Shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa, 8th Yosimune Tokugawa and 13th Iesada Tokugawa have been buried in each pagoda.

In the meanwhile, the other mausoleum is located in a grove on the east side near JR Uguisudani station. There 4th Shogun, Ietsuna Tokugawa, 10th Ieharu Tokugawa and 11th Ienari Tokugawa have been buried in each pagoda.

They are said to be buried with the sitting posture with their legs crossed, under the pagoda.

In another their family temple “Zojyoji Temple”in Shiba area, there used to be mausoleums where other 6 generations of Shohgun were buried. However, they were destroyed by fire during the world War II. Their corpses were dug up and collected together in one pagoda in the temple ground.In the Kaneiji cemetery, 2 mausoleum of Tokugawa family who had been governing Japan for 265 years, have been preserved with the appearance built at the time of embalming the body parts, even though their gates named “Chokugaku Mon Gate” and their water basins were renovated and relocated. The “Chokugaku Mon Gate” refers to the gate with framed imperial scroll. The Ueno Kaneiji Temple has a historical value in term of observing the Tokugawa family’s Mausoleum with the original appearance even now. It is worth visiting the site once. Insides of two mausoleums are not ordinary opened to the public. We can approach up to the “Chokugaku Mon Gate” of the west side of mausoleum and observe its external appearance.

The last shogun, Yosinobu Tokugawa moved from Kaneiji Temple to Mito (His father’s domain) after Boshin civil war happened.In 1869, he was released from his confinement and then he shifted to Shizuoka (Original domain of Tokugawa family). Finally, he moved to Tokyo and lived there after 1897.In 1902, he was given the title of duke by Meiji emperor. At the same time, he became a member of House of Peers. However, he was not deeply involved in politics. He devoted himself in enjoying his wide hobbies such as photograph,hunting, fishing, game of Igo (board game of capturing territory), Noh play and etc.He ended his life at the age of 77 at Koishikawa in Tokyo in 1913. Even though Yosumune Tokugawa was the last shogun in Tokuhawa Shogunate Family, he was not buried in the mausoleum of Tokugawa family in Kanneiji Buddhist Temple. His funeral ceremony was held in the style of Shintoism according to his will. He was buried in the neighborhood Yanaka public cemetery together with his family. His grave is forming a round burial mound being similar to the grave of Meiji Emperor.
The grave site is located near the entrance of Yanaka Cemetery.

ASAKURA Museum of Sculpture.

Fumio Asakura is one of leading sculptors of Japanese statuary art in the period from the Meiji (1868-1912) to the Show(1926-1989). He is known as an artist with craftsmanship to carry out the realistic and naturalistic expression throughout his statuary works. Asakura Museum of Sculpture was built with the architectural style of the compromise between Japanese tradition and western modernism by his own design at Yanaka near JR Nippori Station in 1935.The three-story atelier is built of the modern reinforced concrete. Meanwhile
the residential part is made of conventional Japanese wood. Both parts are welly harmonized without feeling sense of incongruity.Since he died in 1964, the atelier and a part of his resident have been open to the public as the Asakura Museum of Sculpture. The museum exhibits his artworks which were created by applying his unique statuary method named “Cho-Zou”, which is compounded of Carving “Cho” and molding, “Zou”.In addition, they are displaying his corrections such as tea ceremony utensils, Japanese carpenter’s wood shaping tools, miniature accessories and etc.The residential building is built with the appearance of a tea-ceremony house named “Sukiya-Tsukuri”style. Elaborate ornamental handiworks are observed in the garden, tatami-mat floored rooms, corridors, sand-coated walls and stairways. On those, Asakura’s unique
artistic design and preference are reflected.Asakura Museum of Sculpture consists of an Atelier, a residence and a garden.

Entering the front gate, a 3-story building cuts a conspicuous figure in the front. All façade of the building is being painted black. A statue of a man on the top of the building is crouching to stare down at the front gate. And another standing statue receives the visitors at the entrance.

Entering an atelier through the entrance lobby, there forms. a blow-bye space with 8.5 meters height up to a vaulted ceiling. Natural light comes through a clerestory on the northside wall and through wider glass windows on the north, east and south walls. A lifting device to be utilized for creating the large size of object, is embedded under the ground floor. The atelier is usually exhibiting 7-10 numbers of artworks created by Asakura.

Among them, we are so impressed with a life-sized standing statue titled with “Grave Keeper” which is displayed near the entrance.

An elderly grave keeper is standing slouchingly with crossing his hands behind. His face with chiseled feature like European grows beard and mustache. He is wearing a traditional long workman’s coat and winding a scarf towel round his neck.Looking his face closely, we can notice that he is staring at something with a smile.The statue was created in 1910, modeled after a grave keeper of Yanaka Cemetery in the neighborhood of the museum. The artwork is appreciated as one of his masterpieces. It is said that Asakura expressed an appearance of the old grave keeper who was watching with a grin the Japanese chess game being played by Asakura’s apprentices.

Also, they exhibit statues of Sigenobu Okuma, the founder of Waseda University and of Jyutaro Kobayashi, the foreign minister who had been playing an important role in diplomatic activity in Meiji period.

The Kobayashi was portrayed in the posture sitting on the chair in a dignified manner like the statue of President Lincoln in Washington. Among the exhibitions, it is the largest statue and has more presence than others. It causes us something funny feeling since he was actually known as a very small man with the height less that 150CM according to the historical truth. Other than these, they exhibited a full-length nude figure of woman with the theme “flow of time”, a statue of his friend craftsman of bamboo fishing rod and various figures of cats that Asakura had fed.Asakura showed his strong interest in Japanese traditional hand works which were produced by master hand, and also in beauty created by nature. He corrected carpenter’s wood shaping tools such as chisels & planners, bamboo spoons for green tea powder, bamboo baskets for flower arrangement, miniature carving accessories called “Netsuke”, cut glasses named “Satsuma Kiriko”, various shape of shellfishes and etc. Those let us feel his aesthetic view point and admiration for mastery skill.

Following the indicated route, there are a small inner court which is surrounded by a study room, a drawing room, an entrance hall for private use, a living room, a tea room, a bed-sitting room, the atelier and etc.

In the study room, multi-stage book shelves are lined with the walls reaching to the ceiling. It is surprising that a large number of books and documents related to art are lined up on each shelf without any space between them.

Further proceeding along the corridor, there is a Japanese style entrance for Asakra’s family use. We can come out to a backyard. Stepping stone passage is leading along a bamboo fence to another entrance gate facing to Yanaka Cemetery.

Returning the entrance and passing through the living room, the tea room and the bed sitting room are lined up side by side on the north side of the inner court.

The hull shape of boat called “Funazoko Tenjyo”

In the bed-sitting room, a number of iron vases which are collected by Asakura in South Asia、are neatly displayed on an antique staggered shelves with carved decorative patterns.

It is a Japanese Tatami-Mat layered room facing to the north side of inner court. It brings us a small cozy space.

A curved pond occupies large space in the center of the inner court. A big flat-topped stone for taking-off and wearing shoes on it, is arranged under the wooden narrow deck called “Nuren” being protruded out of the floor of the tea room. A stepping stones pathway is leading across the pond. Around the pond various shrubs are planted. And other garden ornaments such as stone lantern, stone waterbasin, stone bridge and etc. are densely placed in the limited space. Among them 5 numbers of huge stones from seashore have conspicuously outstanding presence. These are said to symbolize 5 cardinal virtues in the teaching of Confucius. Asakura seemed to be greatly influenced in his spiritual life by the 5 virtues,“Humanity”, “Justice”, “Courtesy”, “Wisdom” and “Faith”.The layout of the inner court was said to be designed by Asakura.

Going up a staircase, we come to 2 Tatami-Mat layered rooms named “Soshin-No-Ma” (being sincere) on second floor. The rooms are provided with an alcove and a round lattice window. These are bright sunlit rooms facing south. We can look down the whole view of the inner court.

Climbing up a staircase to third floor, we can find an arched thick bamboo rod on a frieze wall above the top of the stair and rows of bamboo rods forming an eave beneath the ceiling. On the side wall, a round window being equipped with Soji-paper & lattice works and a transom with bamboo rod fence.

In the left corner on the upstairs, there is a small pantry called “Mizu-Ya” which is fully provided with bamboo works. Here the preparation for tea servicing seem to be made for the guests

Turning to the right, we face a wider and bright passageway on the east side of the atelier building which is provided with fully expanded glass windows. And 2 Japanese style drawing rooms are lined up on the right side of the passageway.One room is floored with 15 Tatami-Mats and another with 10 Tatami- Mats.

Both rooms are located to face east so that the morning sunlight streams into throughout the rooms. They are provided with subdued coloring red sand walls which contain red agate grains. The walls are said to glow with crimson in the morning sunlight. In contrast to red color, the walls along the passageway side are furnished with white sand walls which contains limpet shell grains. The walls glitter with white in the sunlight. People call these rooms “Choyo-No-Ma” (The room of the Sun Rising).The contrast of red wall and white is appreciated as Asakura’s architectural creation of a space based on his aesthetic properties.The front edge of the alcove is provided with an ornamental stump of a tree. And above it a sand wall with a crescent-shaped cutout is impressively arranged.

Another distinguished feature of these rooms is that the ceilings are covered with lignitized brownish black cell membranes lined with barks of old cedar tree in the Yakushima Island which was designated as World Heritage Site. This creates unique and unprecedented atmosphere in the rooms.

In the rooms a statue of a cat holding a rat in its mouth, is being displayed, titled with “Good Job”. And various colorful snuff bottles which were collected by Asakura, are exhibited.

Going out of a door located at end of the passageway, we can come to a small terrace on the south side of the building.There is a stairway leading to a roof top.  On the roof top, we can view nice scenery of surrounded area in 4 directions.

There is a roof top garden which was the rare case in the 1930’s. Several patches of planting soil ground are arranged on the roof top floor. A tall olive tree grows in
a ground patch. In other patches various flowering plants are growing. Asakura took up gardening in his educational curriculum of his disciples. He let them engage in growing various plants and expected them to acquire the realistic presentation of their sculptured objects through horticulture. On the west edge of the floor, there is a statue of a shot-putter that we looked up at the main gate. It is sitting with one knee up and waiting for his throwing a cannon ball.
On the south edge, a portrait bust of Dr. Langdon Warner (the US Art Historian) is being displayed. He is said to submit the list of Japanese Cultural assets which US should not bomb during the Word War II. Meanwhile, from the east side we overlook a nude statue of a female on the top of the roof of former atelier in the residential area. She sits being bent forward with crossing her arms on the breast in the sunlight. It is titled with “Sun bathing”.

Stepping down to the small terrace on 2nd floor again and further going down to a lower level of the terrace, there is a greenhouse called “Orchid room” where Asakura once grew various kind of orchids.

A large size of a circular window on the center wall draws our attention firstly when we enter the room. The both sides of the walls are fully occupied with glass windowpanes. In addition, a skylight window is installed on the ceiling to admit sunlight and ventilation. The room is quite bright and open. Now the museum display statues of cats with various figures. He is said to be a cat lover (ailurophile). He fed more than 10 cats once and he often took them up as the motif of his sculpture.

In the corner of this room, there is a staircase leading to the entrance hall. We can observe beautiful bamboo works on footstep risers, wainscots and transom on and around the stair.

ASAKURA Museum of Sculpture gives us an opportunity not only to appreciate Asakura’s excellent statuary works in his atelier but also to find out Japanese traditional technique of superior artisans in his residential area.


1. Kaneiji Temple
Address: 11-14-1, Ueno-Sakuragi, Taitoh Ward, Tpkyo
Tel: 03-3821-4440
Open: AM 9:00-PM 5:00

2. Asakura Museum of Sculpture Taito.
Address: 7-10-10 Yanaka, Taitoh Ward, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3821-4549
Open: AM 9:30-PM 4:00
Closed: Mondays & Thursday (Closed on the day following a holiday)
Admission : 500 in Jp. Yen per person.