Tucked into several small streets and alleys next to Ueno Station in Taito, Tokyo, emerges the beautiful and bustling 400-meter long, market shopping area, Ameyoko. Perhaps it is the post World War II black market history of selling candies that lends this traditional market a certain mystic as you walk through the crowded stalls. For the truly traditional experience, pick up some local candies; the black market product from which Ameyoko got its name. Fortunately, there is now a much broader variety of wares and from 10-7 each day, reasonable priced clothes, shoes and a plethora of other items are available for sale.
Perhaps the most interesting area of Ameyoko are the food stalls; where you can see an incredible variety of fresh fish and other sea creatures on display. The bright colors presented simply in their boxes are hard to tear your eyes away from but there is so much more to see. Other stalls with dried spices, snacks and quite a few intriguing and mysterious looking foods will peak your curiosity as you try to figure out what they could possibly be.
All of this shopping will no doubt make you hungry and fortunately there are several lovely little local restaurants which serve fantastic tempura, sushi and other Japanese foods with which to sate your appetite. For a more unique dining experience you may consider a progressive meal nibbling on small freshly made snacks from the food stalls as you walk along. From the amazing red and purple tentacles of an octopus to the juicy pineapple and other delicacies on sticks, Ameyoko is truly a feast for your senses.
Adding to the sensory overload may be the tinkling sound of the pachinko parlors in the area. If you do decide to try your luck at the Japanese version of a slot/pinball machine, be prepared for the wall of smoke when you walk in and for your ears to be ringing when you walk out. Nonetheless, hopefully there is a smile on your face too.
Ameyoko is a nice addition to a day spent exploring other parts of Ueno, such as the zoo, the many museums in Ueno Park or perhaps just a picnic under the cherry blossom trees. Of course if you're interested in doing some serious bargain shopping, you could spend the whole day here alone. It's up to you but definitely stop in for at least a short walk through.
If you're here in late March or April, be prepared for crowds as Ueno Park is a very popular spot to view the cherry blossoms and rightly so as the park is covered in gorgeous pink trees and petals.