Kaneiji is another of the Tokugawa Shogunate temples and was the most dominant of
them during the Edo (Tokyo) Period. It was founded in 1625 and occupied the area known today as Ueno Park- the first public park in Tokyo.
Its main hall was enormous and stood where the large fountain is, in front of the National Museum.
It was set up by Tenkai (the name he asumed in 1590), a Tendai Buddhist monk who was a Daisoujou – the highest ranked priest, and like Zojoji it was under the patronage of Ieyasu Tokugawa . The temple was a copy of Enryakuji the core temple of the Tendai Buddhist sect in Kyoto.
It was built to the north east of Edo Castle (today’s Emperor’s palace) to protect it from evil spirits. It had numerous buildings along with 36 secondary temples, however during the Meiji Restoration, and the wars between the pro- Imperial and Shogun forces, most of the buildings and temples were destroyed by fire.
Those that remain today are the Kiyomizu Kannon temple (a replica of the Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto), the Toshogu Shrine (in memory of Tokugawa Ieyasu – the first Tokugawa Shogun) and a five storied pagoda – nearby Ueno Zoo.
Today’s Kaneiji temple (see photo above), located behind the National Museum, was re-located from Kawagoe, in 1879 to replace the one that was burned down in 1868. It is the former temple of Tenkai. It is referred to as the Great Sorrow temple as it was where the last shogun took refuge after being ousted from power.
Along with Zojoji, Kaneiji was an official burial ground for shoguns and their families and is visited by people who pray for their souls.
Like Zojoji it also has a large bell which was rung throughout the day to enable people to know what time it was.
Smith’s School of English – Koenji