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IMAGE: Kiyomizu Kannon-do (drawing by Takahashi Shōtei, 1871-1945)
In 1625, the learned priest Tenkai erected, at this present location called Ueno, a group of temples known by the overall name of Toeizan Kan’ei-ji in consultation with the shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, for the purpose of protecting the northeastern gate “Kimon”* of the Edo Castle, known today as the Imperial Palace. The Kan’ei-ji Temple, under the strong and favorable patronage of the Tokugawa Shogunate, soon became the general headquarters of the Tendai-shu (one of the oldest sects of Buddhism in Japan).
Soon after that, they installed an imperial prince as the head priest. They called this priest, “Rinno-ji-no Miya” or “Ueno-no Miya.” “Miya” means “Prince.” Then many feudal lords under the Tokugawa Shogunate contributed in competition toward the building of the temples and holy structures affiliated with the Kan’ei-ji Temple. Most of these magnificent temples and holy buildings, which once symbolized the prosperity of the Tokugawa Shogunate, were destroyed in the Ueno Battle of 1868. Now, only the Five-Storied Pagoda, Kiyomizu Kannon-do Temple, Kaizan-do Temple, the front gate of the old Rinno-ji Temple, and the cemetery of the successive Tokugawa Shoguns are vaguely reminiscent of the old grandeur of the Kan’ei-ji Temple.