Ueno Park is one of the most popular attractions in the city of Tokyo and one of the livelier sites during the annual Cherry Blossom season in early April. Ueno has many things to offer and should be visited at least once during a stay in Japan. Ueno Zoo is one of the largest in the world and attracts “kids” of all ages. The animals’ names are written in English. As a special attraction, the zoo houses pandas from China. A monorail connects the main zoo area with the Africa section on the west side. You can also cross a bridge over historic Shinobazu Lake where thousands of ducks and cormorants swim. The Shinto shrine on an island in the lake makes a striking picture. Rowboats are available for rent. Also, next to the lake is the Ueno Zoo Aquarium with more than 500 species of fish exhibited on four levels.
In the park there are numerous museums that are nice during the winter months when it is too cold to be outside. Tokyo’s National Museum is an imposing structure built in 1936 in modern Oriental style. It displays many of the important national treasures and cultural properties of Japan, including ancient tapestries, screens, samurai armor, swords, scrolls, kimonos, ceramics, and more than 100,000 works of Japanese, Chinese, and Indian art. Ueno has a very good National Science Museum (see separate entry) with special sections on zoology, botany, geology, science and engineering, and astronomy. Children will be awed by dinosaur and whale skeletons, and by the collection of clocks and stuffed animals. Even Mexican mummies and shrunken heads can be found here. (Although very little is in English and adults may not be impressed, the museum can be a good learning tool for children.) The National Museum of Western Art is also located in Ueno Park. It was built in 1959 and exhibits the works of French artists. This exhibit features masterpieces by such famous artists as Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Van Gogh, as well as several sculptures by Rodin. All of these attractions are open daily 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, and closed Mondays and from December 29 – January 3 during the Japanese New Year. Entrance fees for each of the attractions range from ¥200 to ¥400 for adults; ¥100 for 13 and up; ¥50 for 3-12; those under 3 and over 65 are free.
You may also want to explore the Ameyayokocho shopping district which runs south from Ueno to Okachimachi Station. Famous for hundreds of tiny discount shops, second-hand motorcycle dealers, and open air markets, it offers countless small inexpensive restaurants where you can make a good lunch of noodles, tempura, yakitori, or other specialties. A picnic is a nice alternative because there are numerous places in the Ueno Park area where you can sit, relax and watch all the people go by. So enjoy your visit!
TRAIN DIRECTIONS: To reach Ueno, take the Ome Line to Tachikawa and change to the Chuo Line toward Tokyo. Get off at Kanda, three stops after Shinjuku. Change to the Yamanote Line toward Ikebukuro, and get off at the third stop, Ueno. Check train times on Hyperdia. – Chris Underwood, Mugs Wedemeyer, date; updated Sarah Straus, May 2013, top photo by Lorri Shrewsbury.