Artist: Hiroshige II Utagawa (1829-1869)
Title: Poem of Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom at Ueno
Series: Thirty-Six Views of the Eastern Capital
From a raised viewpoint, the viewer looks down at the temple grounds of Kan’ei-ji, an important temple for the ruling warrior class during the Edo period. Founded in 1625, the temple was exclusively used by family members of the Tokugawa shogunate for their burial rites. Kan’ei-ji’s relevance to the Tokugawa family is emphasised by its primary figure of worship, Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of medicine. Upon Tokugawa Ieyasu’s death, the founding figure of the shogunate became deified as a Buddha by his family and subjects. Through his actions of unifying a nation that was fundamentally divided, he was regarded as Japan’s very own medicine Buddha.
Although the country was finally united, the shift of power from the previous capital of Kyoto to the young city of Edo sparked a constant rallying between the two cities. Kyoto represented the old elite and the emperor, whereas the recently established city had to create its own cultural capital resulting in a mimicking of Kyoto’s famous sites in Edo. The venerated temple of Enryaku-ji, situated atop Mt. Hiei towering over the old capital, can be seen here emulated in the grounds of Ueno, providing the samurai class with their own religious property equal to that of the emperor’s own city.