Overview

The Ueno district centered around Ueno Station has a park crammed with historical relics and world-class museums, and a shopping district that was once the black market of Tokyo. With so much variety and things to see and do, you can easily spend a whole day and an evening taking in the high and low culture and history of the neighborhood.

Museums

The National Museum of Nature and Science covers a vast span of time from the age of the dinosaurs to the cutting-edge technology of tomorrow. The Japanese gallery provides an insight into Japan’s natural and cultural history.

Designed by Le Corbusier and initiated by the collection of businessman Matsuzaka Kojiro, the National Museum of Western Art is a world-class western art museum with works from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. The preface to the museum is the garden in front which showcases Rodin’s sculptures. The museum hosts exhibitions of western art throughout the year.

Abbreviated to Tobikan, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum museum blends in with the surrounding park has exhibitions of local artists in citizen’s galleries. The exhibits at any given time may feature works by calligraphers, painters, and photographers.

The Louvre, The British Museum, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Count the Tokyo National Museum amongst these must-see museums of the world. Take your time visiting the galleries of historical treasures spanning prehistory to the Edo era. The building itself is a treasure designed by Shimoda Kikutaro displaying both traditional Japanese features and western monumental architecture.

Temples and Shrines

The pine tree of the moon at Kiyomizu Kannondo
The pine tree of the moon at Kiyomizu Kannondo (Photo: Gustave67 / CC BY-NC 4.0)

Dating from 1632, Kiyomizu Kannondo is one of Tokyo’s oldest temples and houses an image of Kannon Bosatsu who blesses childbirth. In the garden overlooking Shinobazu pond the tsuki no matsu, the pine tree of the moon, is a relatively recent planting that recalls Hiroshige’s woodblock print in the series 100 Famous Views of Edo.

The richly decorated Ueno Toshogu tribute to Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu is a must-see at Ueno Park. The curved gables, painted carvings, and gold leaf covered facades are exemplary of Edo-era shrine architecture. Visitors to the shrine can enjoy a wide array of peony flowers sheltered with straw huts in January and again under paper parasols in April.

Historic Houses

In contrast to all the splendid traditional Japanese architecture in Ueno, there is a western architectural treasure, too. The Former Iwasaki Residence, designed by British architect Josiah Conder, is an elegant manor in the Jacobean revival style and uses native materials such as kinkara-kawashi wallpaper.

Another time capsule is Yokoyama Taikan Memorial Hall which preserves the home of an influential Nihonga painter. The house and garden have a revolving display of Yokoyama’s works and his collection of art objects. Here you can imagine what domestic life was like in the Ueno of a bygone era.

Shopping and Dining

Ueno is dense with convenient and varied department and specialty shops. You’re bound to find what you’re looking for. If you’re just passing through, Atre within Ueno Station makes a good pit stop. The complex has global and Japanese brand name shops and branches of popular restaurants such as The Hardrock Cafe, Ichiran Ramen, and T’s Tantan. Free Wi-Fi is available to help you navigate, too.

Ameyoko
Ameyoko (Photo: Keyaki / CC BY 3.0)

Just outside the Hirokoji exit of Ueno Station is the vibrant Ameyoko shopping street. With retail shops, street food, and discount stores, it’s a fun place to stroll and get a meal to finish your day in Ueno.

Parallel to Ameyoko is Chuo Dori shopping street crammed with department stores for electronics, fashion, and housewares.