Tokyo's neighborhood of Ueno is filled with so many things to do and see, from museums and tourist spots to places to shop. And with residential areas that have a nostalgic charm, it's a trendy place for tourists to visit.
This part of Tokyo offers endless areas to explore. You can visit the pandas at Ueno Zoo, stop by the National Museum of Western Art, designated as a World Heritage cultural site, or shop at the old-fashioned Ameyoko Shopping Street otherwise known as just Ameyoko. Being an area where people of all ages gather, don’t miss Ueno when visiting Tokyo!
Here we will introduce the best places to sightsee and eat while including how Ueno has changed since the spread of Covid-19.
main image: momo / PIXTA
- Table of Contents
- 1. Brief history of Ueno: What is Ueno famous for?
- 2. The Best Time to Visit Ueno
- 3. Transportation: Getting around Ueno
- 4. Staying: Hotels in Ueno
- 5. Enjoy dining in Ueno
- 6. Enjoy culture in Ueno
- 7. Enjoy fun things to do in Ueno
- 8. Enjoy Shopping in Ueno
- 9. Attractions and Tourist Spots Around Ueno
1. Brief history of Ueno: What is Ueno famous for?
Ueno has a long history. Here, Ueno Park, the first official park of Japan, opened in 1876.
You can now find many museums in the area along with other cultural institutions. What’s more, the Ueno Zoo which opened in 1882, makes this district an even more popular destination for experiencing culture and sightseeing.
Ever since the first arrival of pandas in 1972, the zoo has been top-rated. So much so, that whenever anyone in Japan thinks of Ueno, pandas automatically come to mind.
In June of 2021, twin giant pandas were born, causing excited crowds to flock to see them again.
In addition to all of this, the National Museum of Western Art was designated as a World Heritage cultural site in 2016. This has caused Ueno to become further recognized as a cultural hub.
After World War II, a black market opened in Ueno; this is said to be the start of Ameyoko. Not limited to just young crowds, Ueno is famous for having shops and facilities all ages can enjoy.
There are so many things to do in Ueno! Since it’s also easily accessible, affordable, and known for being an enjoyable spot to visit cultural institutions as well as parks, it's not surprising to learn that Ueno is ranked as one of Tokyo's most livable neighborhoods.
Recently, Ueno competes with Asakusa as one of the most popular destinations among foreign guests when visiting Tokyo. Because of this, Ueno has become more and more accommodating.
You’ll find many signs in foreign languages as well as facilities offering to accept various payment methods.
Additionally, there are great places to shop that offer tax-free products, plus yattai food stalls where you can try popular treats and Japanese street foods. Visitors will be more than satisfied with their choice of fun activities to enjoy!
2. The Best Time to Visit Ueno
While the area is busy year-round, the best times to visit Ueno are during the spring and towards the end of the year. Ueno has been a popular destination for cherry blossoms since the Edo Period.
From late March to early April, around 800 cherry blossom trees bloom in Ueno Park. Everyone knows that it’s one of the best places to view cherry blossoms in Tokyo.
Also, if you visit towards the end of the year, you must stop by Ameyoko. People from all over gather here to shop for the holidays.
This ranges from buying New Year’s dishes to decorations. It’s even a tradition for this shopping street to be televised every New Year’s Eve.
Although most shops are closed on New Year’s Day, they usually open two days later, offering huge sales and fukubukuro 'lucky bags'.
For those who want affordable but high-quality items, this is the place to go. It’s also a nice idea to stop by on your way to an exhibition at some of the nearby museums.
3. Transportation: Getting around Ueno
a. Getting to Ueno
Ueno Station also used to be known as Tokyo’s Gateway to the North. This was because long-distance trains used the station for traveling to and from the Tohoku and Hokuriku region. Even now, limited express trains and bullet trains are going to Gunma and Ibaraki Prefectures.
At Ueno Station, there are two railway companies and a total of 13 train lines (of which five are for Shinkansen bullet trains) available.
It’s especially great for those traveling to and from the airport. Using the Keisei Skyliner, you can directly travel to Narita Airport’s Terminal 1 in around 45 minutes.
Finally, some subway lines take you to Ginza, Shibuya, Omotesando, Roppongi, Akihabara, and Tsukiji without any transfers.
- ・Keihin-Tohoku Line, Yamanote Line, Joban/Narita Line, Joban Line, Takasaki Line, and the Tohoko Line.
・Bullet Trains: Akita Shinkansen, Joetsu Shinkansen, Tohoku Shinkansen, Hokuriku Shinkansen, Yamagata Shinkansen.
- Tokyo Metro
- ・Ginza Line, Hibiya Line
Also, in addition to Ueno having the JR trains and Tokyo Metro subways, it also has Keisei Ueno Station where the Keisei Main Line can be found.
- Keisei Skyliner
- 2,470 yen
- Keisei Sky Access Express
- 1,270 yen
KEISEI SMART ACCESS: New Shuttle Bus Service for Anyone Entering/Returning to Japan During Covid-19
As of December 2020, the Keisei Railway has been offering a shuttle bus service from Narita Airport to anyone entering or returning to Japan.
With the spread of Covid-19, people have been asked not to use public transportation. This has caused quite an inconvenience, so the new shuttle bus service was introduced as a way to make transportation safe and easy.
- Take both the Keihin Kyuko and the JR Line
- 500 yen / Takes around 40 minutes
- Monorail and JR line
- 670 yen / Takes around 40 minutes
- Take JR’s Ueno-Tokyo Line for five minutes or the JR Yamanote Line for around eight minutes (160 yen).
- 25 minutes on the JR Yamanote Line (200 yen)
One thing to be cautious of is that Ueno Station has many exits. If you go out the wrong one, you might find yourself in the complete opposite direction of where you want to go.
The main ways to exit the station are from the Ueno Park Gate which brings you in front of Ueno Park, Shinobazu Gate which takes you to Ameyoko, and Hirokoji Gate which brings you in front of the Marui Department Store.
Please be sure to check which gate you need to leave from depending on your destination.
b. Transportation for Sightseeing Around the Ueno Area
Many of Ueno’s sightseeing spots are in one area so it’s easy to get to where you want to go by foot. However, if you want to go further out and see what the surrounding neighborhoods have to offer, we recommend purchasing sightseeing tickets sold by the following transportation companies.
▶Taito City Circular Route Bus “Megurin”
・Offering a total of five routes that take you around Asakusa, Yanaka, Tokyo Skytree, and other tourist spots in the city.
・Price: 100 yen (Adults and children pay the same price.)/One-Day Travel Passes are 300 yen
▶Taito, Sumida, and Tokyo Shitamachi Excursion Ticket
・This ticket enables you to use both the train and bus to get around downtown Tokyo. Areas you can visit include Tokyo Skytree Town, Asakusa, Ryogoku, Ueno, and Yanaka, all of which are very popular with tourists.
・For trains, you can use the Tobu-Isezaki Line and the Tobu-Kamedo Line. For buses, you can ride the Tokyo Skytree Shuttle Bus, the Taito City Circular Route Bus “Megurin”, and also the Sumida Ward loop bus called the Sumida Hyakkei.
・Price: One-Day tickets are 500 yen/Two-Day tickets are 700 yen
▶Tokyo Tourist Information Center Keisei Ueno Branch
4. Staying: Hotels in Ueno
Ueno is a great area for an extended stay. It’s easily accessible from the airport, close to tourist attractions in Tokyo, and has many places to eat out and shop.
Ranging from very reasonable hostels to hotels with luxurious facilities, you can find many options that welcome foreign guests. No matter if you’re a large family traveling with small children, a couple, or a solo traveler, you’re sure to find the perfect fit.
5. Enjoy dining in Ueno
Ueno is also an area of Tokyo where the options for food are endless. Whether you’re looking to stop by a local izakaya (informal Japanese bars) or trying to find a top-tier ramen shop, this part of Tokyo has what you’re looking for.
It’s especially famous for being one of the most competitive spots for ramen, where many famous shops line the streets.
You’ll also find conveyer belt sushi restaurants, traditional Japanese diners, fast food shops, restaurants that serve a range of international cuisine, sushi, and more!
Both the prices and the atmosphere at these restaurants are inviting so that tourists can enter with ease.
Starting with Ueno no Mori Sakura Terrace located in front of Ueno Station, many buildings also offer whole floors filled with restaurants to choose from.
Also, if finger food is your style, you won’t be disappointed! Many food stalls offer different types of cuisine for you to walk around and try.
Eat While Walking Around Ameyoko
Ameyoko is not just a tourist spot but also an area where you can find many restaurants. It’s a nice option if you want to choose a range of dishes to snack on while walking around. Some of the Japanese dishes you can find include Japanese-style croquettes, takoyaki octopus balls, and yakitori grilled chicken on a skewer.
If international cuisine is what you’re after, you can delight in options such as kebabs, Chinese soup dumplings, and bubble tea. Here, there are plenty of different foods to enjoy!
Stop by an Izakaya at noon!
Generally, Japanese izakaya open from the evening. However, in Ueno, you can find many shops that are open from noon until late at night. It’s so common, some people visit Ueno just to dine at these izakaya restaurants. It’s the perfect option for those who want to enjoy eating out at a traditional Japanese pub.
6. Enjoy culture in Ueno
Ueno is a district full of culture. Beginning with the National Museum of Western Art that was designated a World Heritage site, there are many museums to go to.
Although, with the current spread of Covid-19, some museums require reservations in advance, restrict admission, limit their hours, and have made changes to when they are open. Please make sure to check updated information about each facility before visiting.
7. Enjoy fun things to do in Ueno
The main activity to enjoy while visiting Ueno is walking around the area. JR Ueno Station's Ueno Park Exit practically connects to Ueno Park, allowing you to take a tour of the culture, art, and history it has to offer.
We especially recommend enjoying natural attractions such as Shinobazu Pond in addition to the historical sites of Ueno Toshogu Shrine and Kiyomizu Kannon-do Temple. Also, you can’t miss out on the Ueno Zoo. Since 2020, there has been a new giant panda exhibit called the Panda Forest.
Once tired out from walking, you can rest at stylish cafes. Some of these include Starbucks Coffee Ueno Onshi Park, Ueno No Mori Park Side Cafe, or Cafe Hibiki.
You can also stop by karaoke shops, game centers, or a unique footbath cafe located on the side of Ueno where Ameyoko is located. These are all fantastic options when you want to take a break.
8. Enjoy Shopping in Ueno
Ueno is also a great place to visit for all your shopping needs. There are trendy fashion accessory stores, shops that sell food and daily commodities, electronic shops, pharmacies, and shops where you can even purchase art pieces.
There is a range of options from standard souvenir shops found in your guidebook to unique stores never seen before! Even the types of shops differ completely depending on the area you’re in.
At Ueno, you’ll find old-fashioned shopping streets, department stores, buildings for younger crowds completed devoted to fashion and other cheap accessories, as well as street-level businesses selling things like 'Sukajan' Japanese souvenir jackets. Lastly, you can also find popular retailers such as Daiso - the popular Japanese 100-yen shop, UNIQLO, and GU.
Inside JR Ueno Station and its Surrounding Area
Inside Ueno Station is Ecute Ueno, where you can find rows of shops selling bento boxes, sweets, and other miscellaneous items. Since opening a new area in June of 2020, it’s become even more alluring.
Also directly connected to the station is Atre Ueno, and in front of the station is the famous department store, Marui. You don’t have to go far for all your shopping needs, and if need be, you can do all of it at or around the station.
Ameyoko Shopping Street and the Okachimachi Area
Under the bridge that connects JR’s Ueno Station and Okachimachi Station is a 500-meter strip where around 400 shops can be found, an area known as Ameyoko. Although many of the shops here offer food, you’ll also find small trinkets, jewelry shops, brand-name items, and cosmetics sold at a fraction of their usual price.
With each shop having its own vibrancy and energy, this is where you can experience the atmosphere of old-fashioned shopping streets in Japan.
In addition to this, there are famous and large retailers such as electronics and lifestyle superstore Yodobashi Camera; ABAB UENO, a popular fashion accessory shop for younger crowds; the famous discount shop Takeya; and the well-known department store Matsuzakaya.
Lastly, for those searching for souvenirs showcasing Japanese craftsmanship, we recommend stopping by the 2k540 shopping avenue. This shop was built to include the bridge that goes over Ameyoko. Here you can experience true Japanese craftsmanship.
9. Attractions and Tourist Spots Around Ueno
There are many famous tourist spots around Ueno you can’t miss when you visit Tokyo. Although you can’t get there by foot, the Asakusa, Tokyo Skytree, Yanaka-Ginza, and Nezu areas can be easily accessed without any transfers by either train or bus.
When touring these famous districts, please try taking advantage of the day passes and excursion tickets available.
Ueno is a unique part of Tokyo where you can experience the bustling energy of a city in addition to the atmosphere of a traditional Japanese town. What’s more, it offers art, culture, history, and nature.
If you’re looking to sightsee around Tokyo, enjoy Japanese cuisine, and shop in an area that offers great deals; this is the perfect place to do so! Please consider stopping by during your visit to Tokyo.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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