Ueno is a key transport hub in the heart of old Tokyo. It is popular with both tourists and Japanese alike for Ueno Park, which is home to several of the capital’s most important museums and art galleries, as well as Ueno Zoo. It is also well-known for the night market of Ameya Yokocho which runs between Ueno Station and Okachimachi Station (one-stop south on the Yamamote Line).
One could easily spend an entire day in the museums and art galleries of Ueno Park alone. If you’re a museum lover or an art fanatic, you might want to consider getting a Grutto Pass which entitles holders to discounts for many of the museums and art galleries in the capital.
The museum has over 14,000 exhibits focusing on mankind’s interaction with nature, as well as the evolution and role of technology in society. It has two main galleries: The Japan Gallery and The Global Gallery. The former focuses on the evolution and history of Japan’s natural world; the latter on the evolution of life on earth (it also contains a cultural play section for kids). See here for more details.
The oldest national museum in Japan holds over 110,000 works of art and artifacts from across Japan and Asia, including 87 designated national treasures. The museum consists of six separate buildings, each with a different theme (Japanese gallery, Asian gallery, etc.). There is also a Japanese garden and tea house. Information in English is available. See here for more details.
The National Museum of Western Art was established in 1959 from the art collection of Matsukata Kojiro. Today the museum’s most famous art pieces are by the French sculptor Rodin. Three of his works can be seen outside the museum. See here for more details.
Shitamachi literally means as “downtown”, but the nuance is somewhat lost in translation. Historically, it was used to refer to the low-lying lands around the Sumida River, but the word has become an umbrella term for the way of life during the Edo period. The Shitamachi Museum showcases this shitamachi life. It also contains a reconstruction of a typical nagaya (“long house”) in which a merchant might have lived. See here for more details.
Opened to the public in 1873, Ueno Park is today home to five museums, two concert halls, and Ueno Zoo. Along with Yoyogi Park and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden it is one of Tokyo’s largest green spaces. The park rests on the grounds of what used to be Kanei-ji Temple, the resplendent temple of the Tokugawa clan who ruled Japan from 1603-1868. Unfortunately, the temple was destroyed during the Battle of Ueno in 1868—the last battle for Edo during the Boshin War—and the Kanei-ji Temple that stands at the northwest corner of the park is but a humble replacement.
(“Candy Alley”) is Tokyo’s best known night market. Visit in the early evening (ideally Friday or Saturday) when the neon lights, trains running directly overhead, smoke from the meat grills, and cries of the vendors peddling anything from dried fish and Japanese crackers to baseball caps and U.S. Navy jackets, let you experience first-hand the grittier side of the city.
The former home of the Iwasaki Family, the founders of the Mitsubishi group. The grounds passed into government possession after the war and the structures are today recognized as Important Cultural Assets.
Opened in 1882, Ueno Zoo is Japan’s oldest zoo and home to about 450 species of animal, including the giant pandas for which it is famous. Other attractions include the “Gorilla Woods”, “Tiger Forest”, a petting zoo with goats and sheep, and a Five-storied Pagoda which was part of the former Kanei-ji Temple.