A district well known for its artistic and natural side, Ueno offers visitors a different look at Tokyo. Compared to its sister neighborhoods, Ueno isn’t only a concrete jungle. It’s a mix of nature, history and a touch of urban culture. Filled with museums, shrines, shops, restaurants, a massive park and even a pond to row a boat in, it’s the best place to kick back and relax. We recommend you keep a whole day free if you plan on adding this location to your “to-do” list!
At Ueno Station, you can find a large amount of specialty shops that sell souvenirs, snacks and many more. The station itself keeps things simple for visitors with few floors, major connections to other stations and convenient exits. The exits of the station are the Shinobazu Exit, Iriya Exit, the Main Exit, Panda Bridge Exit, Yamashita Exit, Hirokoji Exit, Asakusa Exit and the Higashi-Ueno Exit. Most visitors will use the Panda Bridge Exit or the Shinobazu Exit due to their ideal spots when starting out their day.
Can you think of a place in Japan that has a park completely dedicated to nature and art? If you guessed Ueno, then you’re absolutely right! This neighborhood embraces everything from the tiniest zoo creatures to the oldest pieces of Japanese history. If you’re worried about food or entertainment, don’t be. Like every big district in Tokyo, there are always restaurants and shops to keep you covered.
Ueno Onshi Park
One of the most well known parks in Japan, Ueno Onshi Park opened itself to the public in 1873. Described as one of Japan’s first Western-styled parks, it offers a contrast to the busy, crowded Tokyo norm with open space and greenery to relax. Ueno Park is also known for giving off a stunning display of cherry blossom trees during the spring season. For more information, visit the park’s official website!
Home to highly prized pandas, Ueno Zoo (Website in English) is also Japan’s first and oldest zoological garden. Since its opening in 1882, this zoo is recognized on a global level and attracts visitors from around the world. With over 60 different sections of animals from around the world, it’s no wonder that it brings so much attention to itself. If you’re an animal lover or looking to show your appreciation for wildlife, this spot is worth the stop.
Tokyo Bunka Kaikan
Originally built in 1961 and renovated in 1998, It hosts various types of performances ranging from ballet, plays, competitions and concerts. The larger halls are able to fit around 2,300 people while its smaller ones can fit around 650. Upcoming venues can be viewed on Tokyo Bunka Kaikan‘s website (English available) and Twitter.
National Museum of Western Art
Established in 1959, the National Museum of Western Art or NMWA for short, focused on collecting pieces from Western art. Inside the building lies artwork dating from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. The museum holds a special exhibition every year showcasing work both foreign and domestic. Information on special events and museum hours can be found on their website (English available).
National Museum of Nature and Science
Opened to the public in 1871, the National Museum of Nature and Science houses a variety of exhibitions featuring both natural and scientific history. Many of the exhibitions within the museum are interactive and encourages you to explore your curiosity. Stay up to date with the museum’s official website (English available)!
Tokyo National Museum
Not every museum can hold the title of “the oldest Japanese national museum,” but this one definitely does! It is the largest art museum in all of Japan and ranks 6th for gallery space in the whole world. Though the museum heavily focuses on Japanese art, it displays pieces collected from other parts of Asia. There are a total of five exhibition buildings that make up the whole museum. Each building offers its own special features and is a must see for art and archaeology lovers. Visit their website for updates and special events!
Ueno Toshogu Shrine
Founded in 1627 and renovated in 1651, the Ueno Toshogu Shrine is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu (a powerful figure in Japanese history). People recognize the shrine by its gold decorations and unique animal carvings on the main sections. Though the shrine itself appears to be unscathed over the years, the stone pathway leading up to it is uneven which is tall-tale sign of aging. For more information, you can visit their website (English available) and Facebook page!
Hanazono Inari Shrine
Have you ever heard of or seen Japan’s red torii (Shinto shrine gates)? If you haven’t, this is a good chance to introduce yourself to them. Follow the red torii all the way to the end, to find a hidden shrine that’s not easy to spot. It’s smaller in comparison to the Toshogu Shrine and not as vibrant. Yet, it is attractive in its own way and is meant to appeal to “Oinarisan” which is one of the favorable gods in Shintoism. The shrine itself has two small statues in the shape of a fox that are known as “messengers” to the god. The shrine is definitely worth a visit if you have the time.
Shinobazu no Ike Bentendo
This is not another shrine in case you were wondering. This is actually a temple and they usually fall under Buddhism rather than Shintoism. The temple is dedicated to Benzaiten, the goddess of wealth, happiness, wisdom and music. The temple sits on a man-made mound overlooking the Shinobazu Pond and is accessible by a stone bridge. Around the temple lies monuments dedicated to various things of related to Japanese lifestyle. For more information, you can visit the official website (English available).
Ueno Park Boat Dock
Aside from appreciating nature with your eyes, why not interact with it as well? Of the three main sections in the Shinobazu Pond, the boating section is where you’re able to rent a rowboat or cycle boat and paddle throughout the pond. If you’re coming from the station side of Bentendo Temple, keep walking straight and you’ll reach the boat dock in no time. For those coming from other parts of Ueno, follow the signs the and trail to reach the dock. It’s a fun way to relax especially if you have friends with you while visiting.
Around a five minute walk from Bentendo Temple is the Shitamachi Museum. The word “shitamachi” is a literal translation of downtown. Inside the museum, there are displays and exhibits that depict downtown life in old Japan. The museum itself isn’t large but is great for a quick glimpse of old Japanese lifestyle. You can visit the official website, Facebook and Twitter pages for more information.
Otherwise known as “Ameyoko” by the locals, this street has it all when it comes to cheap goods and snacks. Located across from Ueno Station’s Shinobazu and Hirokoji exits, it’s easy to spot with its large overhead sign and ever flowing groups of customers.
If you’re looking for women’s fashion in Ueno, stop by the AbAb department store. The building holds eight floors of shops with cheap prices and clothes for every style. On the seventh floor, there is even a Daiso “dollar store” and a sweets shop in case clothes aren’t enough! Visit the AbAb website for a full store list and updates.
Named after the famous 19th century samurai Saigo Takamori, 3153 is also a clever play on words when read aloud. The building is located across from the station and is close to many entrances to Ueno Park. 3153 has three floors of restaurants and a food court. For more information on the building, visit the website (via Google Translate).
If you had to describe Chuo Dori, the closest thing you can think of is probably Center Gai. Though not as pedestrian friendly like Center Gai, the Chuo Dori street has plenty of restaurants, izakayas, department stores, bars and many more!