garden, architecture, art

Shinobazunoike Bentendo Temple, Ueno

The building at “Shinobazu Pond” in Ueno Onshi Park, is “Shinobazu Pond Bentendo,” which has an unique octagon shaped hall.Since it enshrines “Benzaiten,” one of the Seven Lucky Gods, it is popular as a protective god of music and entertainment; moreover, it is called “Bentendo,” “Benten Sama” and “Benzaiten” among the local people. 



It was established by Tenkai Soujyo, who founded Toeizan Kaneiji Temple in Ueno, which followed Hieizan(Mt.Hiei) Enryakuji, from the Azuchi-Momoyama period to the Edo period.
At that time, it used the mountain of Ueno to resemble Hieizan, Shinobazu Pond, which was twice as big as now, to resemble Biwako(Lake Biwa), and the small island in Shinobazu Pond to resemble Chikubu Island. In addition, Shinobazu Pond Bentendo was established to resemble “Hogon Temple” in Chikubu Island.
Although they used a boat to visit the hall at first, the bridge was built as the visitor to a shrine increased in the Edo period.
The original hall was lost by Great Tokyo Air Raids in 1945; therefore, the present hall was reestablished to be reinforced concrete in 1958. It is said that the hall became octagon shaped to make the visit easier.


The principal object of worship at a temple

The principal object of worship at the Bentendo is “Benzaiten.” It is widely known as a protective god of music and entertainment; moreover, it has a fortune for being lucky with money from its kanji.
“Benzaiten” is known as holding a Japanese lute, yet “Benten Sama” in Bentendo is “Happi Benzaiten.” “Happi Benzaiten” is a goddess derived from Indian mythology that has 8 arms, and holds weapons such as a bow, a sword, and a vajra in each hand. These weapons are said to be the tools for destroying earthly desires and for saving people from sorrow. It is exposed once a year at the “Minarukane Festival” in September.
There are the lucky wallet and an oval gold coin with bright gold color only this period, and you can expect good luck on your money.
Inside the shrine, you can see the Biwa stone monument and votive tablet related to Benzaiten.

Seven Lucky Gods

“Benten Sama” at Shinobazu Pond is one of the “Yanaka Seven Lucky Gods,” which are enshrined at seven shrines at Daito, Arakawa, Kita Ward in Tokyo. It is said that the popularity of the Seven Lucky Gods increased in the Edo Period, because of the effort of Tenkai Soujyo.
At that time, there was a custom for buying the picture of Seven Lucky Gods on a treasure ship, sleeping with it laying under the pillow, and expecting a good first dream on New Year’s Day.
The Yanaka Seven Lucky Gods Visit is held from the new year day to 10th, January.


In Bentendo, there is “Daikokuten” enshrined aside from Yanaka Seven Lucky Gods. According to legend, it is valued by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Moreover, it survived through the wars of the end of the Edo period and the Pacific War and remains today.Daikokuten is known for God that blesses and attracts good fortune; furthermore, it brings our family prosperity and wealth.


Around the Shinobazu Pond Bentendo, there are unique memorial mounds for appreciating daily things and birds and beasts; for instance, bird mound, fish mound, puffer mound, soft-shelled turtle mound, kitchen knife mound, and glasses mound.It is like Japanese traditions that they have various kinds of mounds to be thankful for not only animals but also everything such as kitchen knives and glasses.


In the evening, the hall is illuminated, so that it is more beautiful. It is very nice to see the hall from nearby, from the opposite side of Shinobazu Pond, and from the stairs of Ueno Park.Depending on the time of year, beautiful lanterns are displayed in front of the Chozuya and Mido, and the street vendors’ stalls are lined up along the approach.

Auther:Hiroko Hirachi

Writer for website, magazine, and newspaper. Used to be a newspaperman. Also active as a yoga teacher, teaching at temple.