When in Ueno, prepare for a lot of things: bathe in interesting sights, haggle for bargains, sample delicious food, learn more about Japanese culture, and most of all, do a lot of walking. As one of Tokyo’s busiest downtown areas, it is dotted with numerous parks, shopping areas, restaurants, cultural facilities, temples, and shrines that it is pretty easy to come up with a jam-packed itinerary for the day. In case you’re wondering where to start, here’s a list of things to do in Ueno to have the best time. Be warned; you’ll surely need the extra energy to make the most out of this locale.
Ueno Park & Shinobazu Pond
Because of its proximity to the railway station, Ueno Park is by design, the starting point of your adventures in this part of Tokyo. It is a massive public park where the majority of the locale’s attractions mentioned in this list are located making it a popular hang out place for locals and tourists alike.
In terms of being a nature space, it is blessed with beautiful trees, among which are thousands of cherry blossoms. It is, in fact, the city’s most famous spot for hanami or cherry blossom viewing parties.
On the other hand, another one of Ueno Park’s natural attractions is the Shinobazu Pond. It is situated in the park’s southern end and has three distinct sections: the Lotus Pond that has the best views during summer; the Boat Pond, where you can hang out in rental boats; and the Cormorant Pond, which is named after the bird species that inhabit it. At its center is an islet with the Bentendo Buddhist temple built on it.
Address: Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Ueno Toshogu Shrine
Built in 1627 in honor of Edo Shogunate’s founder Tokugawa Ieyasu, this shrine is one of the very few Edo-period structures to have survived wars and natural calamities that struck Tokyo. It is a designated Cultural Property of Japan wherein the main shrine structure is elaborately decorated with wooden carvings and gold trimmings, while scattered around its grounds are 50 large copper lanterns that were donated by daimyo (warlords) serving the clan. The shrine is likewise popular for its Botan garden. For a limited time during spring and winter months, it is open to the public for peony flower viewing.
Address: 9-88 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Price: Free admission to the main shrine; Admission to the inside of the wall – ¥500 (Adult), ¥200 (Child, 6-12 years old), Free (Child, below 6); Admission to the inside of the wall and peony garden – ¥1,100
Kan’ei-Ji Temple was one of the largest and wealthiest temples during the Edo period. It used to be a huge complex consisting of around 30 buildings, but unfortunately, most of it were destroyed during the Boshin War. Of the 30, only three structures remain today: Toshogu Shrine, the five-story pagoda (currently inside Ueno Zoo), and the main Kan’ei-Ji temple. This structure can be found at the park’s quiet northwest corner.
Address: 1 Chome-Uenosakuragi, Taito-ku, Tokyo
A lot of tourists are drawn to this shrine in Ueno Park because of its vermillion torii gates that resemble that of Kyoto’s world famous Fushimi Inari Shrine. However, for those in the know, this place is also believed to be a power spot that blesses people with good relationships and fertility. Thus, aside from posing for pretty photos, you might also want to pray for the fulfillment of your heart’s desires here. Like in all the other shrines, you can purchase charms or write your wishes on prayer boards.
Address: 4-59 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Ueno Zoological Gardens
Ueno Park is so massive that it even has a zoo within its premises. Ueno Zoo is actually the country’s oldest zoo and is most famous for its giant pandas and other animal species native to Japan. At present, it is home to around 500 species of animals from all over the world. It is a great place to spend a couple of hours in especially for those who are traveling with kids in tow.
Address: 9-83 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Price: ¥600 (Adult), ¥200 (Student, 13-15 years old), Free (Child, 12 and below)
Ueno is also the ideal destination for the lover of arts, history, and culture. In this district, you can go on a museum spree with these 6 museums: Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, National Museum of Western Art, National Museum of Nature and Science, Shitamachi Museum, and the Ueno Royal Museum. All these facilities are located in Ueno Park, so you can easily hop from one museum to another!
Art enthusiasts will have a grand time browsing pieces at Ueno’s art museums. Tokyo National Museum is the best place to view traditional Japanese works, whereas the National Museum of Western Art focuses on Impressionist paintings and the sculptures of Rodin. For contemporary Japanese art, there’s Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, which has six galleries worth of paintings, calligraphy, pottery, sculpture, and installations. Of the four, Ueno Royal Museum is the smallest but still worth checking out for its special events and temporary exhibitions.
History and culture, on the other hand, are showcased at the National Museum of Nature and Science and Shitamachi Museum. The former is an outstanding natural history museum, while the latter is an homage to Edo Period Tokyo. Here, visitors can immerse in the way of life of yesteryears. There are life-size replicas of shop houses and living quarters, as well as exhibits of vintage items like toys, housewares, and other cultural artifacts.
Tokyo National Museum
Houses many traditional Japanese works of art.
Address: 13-9 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Price: ¥620 (Adult), ¥410 (College Student), Free (Seniors, under 18 years old)
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
Showcases Japanese contemporary art with special focus on open-air sculptures and calligraphy works.
Address: 8-36 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
National Museum of Western Art
Displays Western art from the end of the medieval period to the beginning of the 20th century.
Address: 7-7 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Price: ¥500 (Adult), ¥250 (College Student), Free (Seniors, under 18 years old)
National Museum of Nature and Science
The only national science museum in Japan focusing on natural history.
Address: 7-20 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Price: ¥620 (Adult), Free (High School students and younger)
Life-sized replicas of Edo-period townscapes, culture, and way of life.
Address: 1-2 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Price: ¥300 (Adult), ¥100 (Student)
Ueno Royal Museum
Hosts limited period contemporary art exhibitions and special cultural events.
Address: 1-2 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Price: On a per event basis
Website: http://ueno-mori.org/ (Japanese only)
Ameyoko is Ueno’s iconic shopping district. It rose to prominence during the postwar years as many black market goods were sold here. Today, it is the site of bargain shopping from fresh food to fashion finds. Prepare to elbow your way through a pack of crowds, but all the effort is surely worth it if it’s quality products with good prices you’re searching for.
Address: 4 Chome-10-7 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://www.ameyoko.net/ (Japanese only)
Kappabashi Kitchen Town
Kappabashi Kitchen Town is an exciting place to visit especially if you like whipping up magic inside the kitchen. This market area specializes in cooking equipment, tools, utensils, food souvenirs, and for something unique to Japan, plastic food samples. If you have extra time, you can even participate in a food sample making workshop at Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya. Register for a slot by clicking on the link provided below.
Kappabashi Kitchen Town
Address: 3-8-12 Matsugaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Ganso Food Sample Workshop
Address: 2 Chome-25-9 Nishiasakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://www.ganso-sample.com/experience/kappabashi_exp.html (Japanese only)
Drink at cheap Izakayas
Izakayas are local pubs where you can enjoy good food and booze for cheap, and like any other popular places in Tokyo, Ueno definitely has its own share of recommended watering holes. Head to Motsuyaki Daitoryo if you feel the need for a drink early in the day. This shop that specializes in grilled meat is already open from 10AM. On the other hand, if you prefer seafood to go with your alcohol, drop by Fu Bu Ki for some sashimi and other fresh seafood treats.
Address: 6-13-2 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Price: ¥2,000 ~ ¥2,999
Website: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1311/A131101/13124105/ (Japanese only)
Fu Bu Ki
Address: 6-4-14 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Price: ¥1,000 ~ ¥1,999
Website: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1311/A131101/13173746/ (Japanese only)
As one of Tokyo’s oldest districts, Ueno has quite a number of establishments with a long-standing history. If you’re a noodle lover, do not miss out on Yabusoba as they’ve been serving soba dishes since 1892. Order Seiro Soba to simply taste their soba noodles, and for the best experience, pair this dish with sake.
Address: 6-9-16 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Price: ¥1,000 ~ ¥1,999
Website: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1311/A131101/13003594/ (Japanese only)
Yamashiroya is six floors worth of toys, collectibles, and anime goods. It is a heaven for hobbyists looking to expanding their haul, a rabbit hole that leads to the world of otaku culture, and a shopping destination for quirky souvenirs. All these you can find within just a 5-minute walk from Ueno Station’s south exit.
Address: 6 Chome-14-6 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://www.e-yamashiroya.com/ (Japanese only)
Nekomaru Café (Cat Café)
Need a little break from roaming around Ueno? How about spending some down time with feline friends at Nekomaru Café? Play with them and vie for their attention. While you’re at it, you can order a rather wide range of coffee drinks, savory meals, and sweet desserts.
Address: 8F Higashiewado Building 7-2-2, Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Price: From ¥350 (15 minutes trial plan, available only on weekdays)
Website: http://www.nekomarucafe.com/ (Japanese only)
All price information in this article is as of August 2017.
Thumbnail image is from Flickr.