Ueno Japan: Taking a Break from the Highrise Buildings of Tokyo

Ueno is the last stop of the Keisei Skyliner from Narita Airport. It is likely that numerous visitors come here first as they touch down in Japan. Tokyo is well known for in sky high buildings, but Ueno is something unlike your typical Tokyo, Japan. Ueno is well known for Ueno Park, an assortment of museums, and the shopping road Ameyoko, where you can purchase practically anything at a modest cost.

All About Tokyo’s Famous Ueno Park

Ueno Park

What makes Ueno Park one of a kind is that it is not simply just your ordinary park, you can encounter history, science, and culture by going to several museums found within the park, and you can likewise play with the animals. The park was initially considered part of the Kaneiji temple grounds, however, it was turned into a public part in Japan’s Meiji period.

Historically speaking, Ueno Park was nothing more than land that was part of a temple. However, the area and most of the temple buildings were caught in the middle of the Boshin War of 1868, in what is known today as the Battle of Ueno. Though the political climate of Japan was bleak at that time, Ueno Hill had become part of Tokyo City which had prompted officials to protect what remains of it. These included a five-storey pagoda, the Kiyomizu Kannondo, and the main gain. Many ideas were thrown around on how to repurpose the area. Some even wanted to use the space for a medical school or hospital. It was actually through the urging of a foreigner, a Dutch doctor named Bauduin, that spurred the conversion of Ueno Hill into a park. It was the year 1873 when the Great Council of State, the Dajo-Kan, of Japan had made a national decree for the development of public parks. This decree, in the same fashion as the Yellowstone Park that was formed the year before, was created to preserve the beauty of historic places around the nation, while providing the public with spaces to enjoy and relax. It was that same year that Ueno Park was created.

At the beginning, people would just go to Ueno Park for the cherry blossoms, Kaneiji temple, and Toshogu Shrine. Eventually, a zoo and museums were built inside Ueno Park.

Today, there are so many things to do in Ueno park. You can appreciate nature as well as history and culture at Ueno Park. You can also take a rest at cafes after a long walk in the park. The cafes are conveniently located by the fountain park. Near the cafes is Tokyo National Museum. Tokyo National Museum shows over 100,000 things. You will also be able to find 87 national treasures. The good news is, you are allowed to take photographs inside the park except when there are special exhibitions.

From mid-July to mid-August, the Shinobazu lake, called as Shinobazu-no-ike in Japanese, will greet you with its delightful lotus flowers. The sizeable lotus leaves cover the Shinobazu lake. Truly a beautiful sight.

Cherry Blossom

On the other hand, the month of March is the cherry blossom season for Ueno Park and this park is one of the best places to be during this season. The Ueno Park boasts of ginkgo trees, keyaki, and maple trees all over the park.

Must Visit Ueno Park Museums

One really cool thing about Ueno Park is that it houses some of the best museums that can be found in Tokyo, Japan. You can stroll in the park, have coffee in the cafes, and at the same time learn more about art, culture, and science. It really is worth it to travel to Ueno Park. Below is a guide of the must-see museums in Ueno Park:

  1. Tokyo National Museum
    Alongside a theater, an art gallery, a zoo and a science historical center, there is the Tokyo National Museum which has an accumulation of social resources that numbers more than 100,000 displays (as previously mentioned) inside an expansive space. Tokyo National Museum is, in fact, Japan’s first national historical center launched in the year 1872. On the first floor of the Japanese Gallery, the impressive displays include Shiki, metalwork, sculpture, swords and pottery. On the second floor, there is a well-preserved display which dates back before Christ. You will also find the Haniwa figurines on this floor, as well as the Buddhist craft of the Asuka Era originating in Nara, the Imperial Court culture of the Heian Era, the Zen Buddhism and various tools for tea ceremonies. It is great to see the way Japan has progressed over time through the exhibitions displayed. Likewise, in the Gallery of Horyu-ji Treasures, seventh and eighth-century ancient artworks will welcome you. If you are into ancient art, the collection in the Gallery of Horyu-ji Treasures will certainly not disappoint. Another interesting part of the Tokyo National Museum is its Asian Gallery. This is where you will find artwork, artifacts, sculptures, and other cultural items from different countries in Asia. For museum fanatics, one day is definitely not enough to see everything in Tokyo National Museum. The Tokyo National Museum will give you a new sense of understanding of Japan’s culture and way of life.
  2. National Museum of Science
    Japan is a world pioneer in science, technology, and engineering, among other fields. Did you know that Japan has the most Nobel Prize winners in Asia? That is how amazing is Japan. And if you would want to get a glimpse of it all, then you should visit the National Museum of Science. The National Museum of Nature and Science was built in 1877.  This is the Japan’s most established national gallery of general science. It exhibits everything from history to modern day innovative research. The exhibition hall has a profitable gathering of more than four million relics. The National Museum of Science is isolated to have two areas, which is the Japan Gallery and the Global Gallery. In the Japan Gallery, you will learn about things such as Japanese history, technology, geography, and vegetation. Through these displays, you can get some answers concerning the regular elements of Japan, the roots of the Japanese individuals and Japanese history. In the Global Gallery, you will have a deeper appreciation for the earth. The displays that can be found here have a great way of making you think about the earth from a wider perspective. You will see things on extinct beings such as the dinosaurs, as well as specimens from other animals both living and extinct. You will get to learn more about human evolution, space, and other scientific innovations. It is good to think about the future of the earth while you are here in this gallery.
  3. The National Museum of Western Art
    Another museum located within Ueno Park is the National Museum of Western Art. This modern architecture piece of art was built by Le Corbusier, a world renowned European architect whose creations globally have been considered as World Heritage sites. The art is mostly from France and parts of Western Europe. Although, you will also come across artworks from North America. Like the abovementioned Tokyo National Museum and National Museum of Science, the National Museum of Western Art also features a wide range of collection across many rooms. Thus, it would be impossible to go through all collections in just one day. A return visit is recommended so do so if you still have time to spare.
  4. Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
    The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum is a few steps shy from Ueno Zoo. Unlike the other museums, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum does not have an admission fee. However, special exhibitions require a minimal fee. But regardless, all the admission fees are worth it because there are a lot to learn and see in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. Aside from galleries and special exhibitions, the museum also offers art lessons and workshops. Make sure you check out the schedules so you won’t miss any of the shows and special exhibitions! You may also get cool souvenirs in the museum shop.
  5. Ueno Royal Museum
    The Ueno Royal Museum is relatively small compared to the other museums such as The Metropolitan Art Museum and the National Museum of Western Art. So the good news is you can check the whole museum in just one day or even less. What to see really cool about this museum is that it doesn't have a permanent exhibit or collection display none like the other museums. The Ueno Royal Museum loans artwork from other museums around the world and exhibits it at a set period of time. So expect the unexpected when you visit the Ueno Royal Museum, you might just get artworks from the United States, western Europe, or some other parts of Asia. Entrance fee for the Ueno Royal Museum is 600 yen.

If you are into art and other cool things, there are also other places to visit outside Ueno Park such as Bandai Museum located in Tochigi, Japan, which is quite far but the Bandai headquarters is only in Asakusa, Japan. You can drop by there instead if you are pressed for time. You can also check out Yamashiroya Toy Store if you are into action figurines, which is located nearby in Taito, Ueno.

All Out Fun in Ueno Zoo

Pandas are the biggest attraction in Ueno Zoo. Right as you enter the zoo, you will be welcomed by a panda. The public love the pandas so you might have to squish your way in to get a view. Other than the panda, the Ueno Zoo also houses wild animals such as tigers, lions, and bears.

Ueno Zoo Polar Bear

You can also go to the bear enclosure to get a closer glimpse of the polar bear with just a glass wall dividing you from the animal. It is quite an experience. There are also smaller animals such as monkeys and birds.

Book Hotels Near Ueno Station for Easier Travel

It is highly recommended to book an accommodation near the Ueno Station since it is the main point of access to various tourist attractions such as the Ueno Park and Ueno Okachimachi Shopping destination. Plus, the station is also connected to Narita Airport ensuring you a hassle-free travel to and from the airport.There are also restaurants, clothing shops, and convenience stores inside Ueno Station so it will be easy for you to buy some last minute shopping, get some midnight snack, or buy toiletries. You should check out below listed hotels that are a few steps away from Ueno Station:

  1. Mitsui Garden Hotel Ueno
    One of the hotels near Ueno Station is the Mitsui Garden Hotel Ueno. The Mitsui Garden Hotel Ueno is just a two-minute walk from Ueno station.  Aside from its excellent location, the Mitsui Garden Hotel Ueno also has spacious rooms compared to other hotels in Tokyo. You also won’t have a hard time talking to the staff of the hotel because they can understand and converse in English. The hotel also has free stable Wi-Fi all throughout whether you are in your room or in the lobby. There are also massage services that you can avail of after a long tiring day of exploring Ueno.
  2. Sutton Place Hotel Ueno
    The Sutton Place Hotel Ueno is also walking distance from Ueno Station and is only 500 meters away from Ueno Park. Same as Mitsui Garden Hotel Ueno, the staff here in Sutton Place can speak in English. They are also very helpful and accommodating to questions so ask away if there is anything you are curious about or if there is anything you would like to double check with them. The hotel also has free Wi-Fi although it is not available in all places of the property. Therefore, you have to go to free Wi-Fi spots areas in the hotel.
  3. Hotel Kangetsuso
    Hotel Kangetsuso located in Taito, Japan is also walking distance from a nearby Ueno Station. Additionally, this hotel is just right beside the Ueno Park! This is very convenient especially if you would like to visit the museums several times. The hotel has clean rooms with air condition, private baths, television, and free room Wi-FI services. The only downside of this hotel is that it does not have an in-house restaurant. But not to worry, since you will be able to find restaurants just a five-minute walk from the hotel.

Find Location: Ueno Park Coordinates

Yamanote line

When you get to  Ueno station from the Keisei, tram or JR lines, you will see the statue of Saigō Takamori, a standout amongst the most persuasive samurai in Japanese history. He is widely celebrated that there is a possibility that all of Japan know of his existence. This bronze statue is a well-known landmark of Ueno. So once you see Saigō Takamori, there is no doubt that you are in Ueno. From Tokyo, you can take the Mizonokuchi Station, which is a 46-minute ride to Ueno Station.

Before you go into the hustle and bustle of the urban Tokyo City, take a stop first in Ueno, Japan!