Asakusa Park

Cherry blossom viewing [O-hanami], with the "12-Story Tower" (Ryounkaku) in the distance. Although not as large as nearby Ueno Park, Asakusa Park was conveniently located next to Asakusa's theater district, amusement park, and the Asakusa Kwannon temple grounds.

Asakusa Park

Asakusa Park was designated as one of Tokyo's first five public parks, including Ueno, Shiba, Fukagawa-Kiyosumi, and Asakuyama, established by the Meiji government in 1873 on appropriated temple grounds. By design or otherwise, the 50-acre Asakusa Park acted as a buffer between the bawdy Rokku theater district and the pious, sedate religious grounds surrounding the Asakusa Kwannon.

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Map of Asakusa Park,
ca. 1910.

Two ponds, Oike [Large pond] and the (ironically-named) larger Hyotanike [Ghourd pond], were created a few years later west of the Sensoji temple hall and would remain until 1951. In 1890, the Ryounkaku [def: cloud surpassing pavilion] was erected -- no doubt the city's most impressive skyscraper until the completion of Tokyo Tower in 1958. Ryounkaku would crumble in the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, and both ponds were filled in after WWII. In their place, a covered shopping arcade was built.

One corner of the park grounds predated the establishment of Asakusa Park entirely. The privately-owned Hana-Yashiki [def: flower mansion] opened in 1853 as a flower and bird park. By the turn of the century, Hana-Yashiki had evolved into a menagerie of hanging gardens, archery galleries, sideshow performers, peep shows, and fortune tellers along with a small zoo.