Take a short walk from the bustling transport hub of Ueno Station and find yourself in a cultural and recreational haven. The expansive park that sits next to the station houses many museums, a large boating pond, a shrine with a pagoda and a large zoo—home to the two-tone mascot of the area, the panda. The park is the focus of attention in April as the many cherry trees burst into bloom. Follow the train tracks of the Yamanote Line towards neighboring Okachimachi Station to experience Ameyoko—the bustling shopping street where the distinctive calls of market sellers can be heard selling everything and anything from clothes, spices, cosmetics and fresh fish.
Access Ueno Station by taking the Tokyo Metro's Ginza and Hibiya lines. The Keiseidentetsu Line runs to Keisei Ueno Station.
From Haneda Airport: Around 50 minutes by train.
From Narita Airport: Around one hour and 20 minutes by train.
From Shinjuku Station: 24 minutes on the JR Yamanote Line to Ueno Station.
From Tokyo Station: Eight minutes on the JR Yamanote Line to Ueno Station.
From the short-lived explosion of cherry blossom pink in the spring, the vibrant purple and blue lotus flowers in the summer, and the black and white panda bears in the zoo, Ueno Park is alive with color. Picnic parties under the petals are commonplace in the springtime, and budding photographers take their cameras out on Shinobazu Lake to shoot the lotuses during the summer. If you are feeling worn out with your flower viewing, head to one of the terrace cafes to take the weight off your feet. Energy is definitely required for a trip to the zoo however, as it will take you a good half a day to explore the sprawling animal park home to gorillas, tigers, polar bears, giraffes, and a whole host of fascinating creatures from the natural world. The black and white star attractions are the giant pandas—expect to wait in line to catch a glimpse of the cuddly Chinese bears.
The origins of Ameyoko lie in post-war black-market commerce where stalls would sell a range of products from sweets and snacks to military wear. An edgy aspect still remains to the 500-meter long commercial street that has grown significantly in size and is frequently crowded with shoppers looking to take advantage of low prices on fresh food, cosmetics, clothes, and jewelry. The street is set to a background of hawking calls by the energetic sellers each trying to out-do the other in volume and passion. A range of specialty shops are buried within the market such as military shops stacked with military fatigues and accessories and the Ameyoko Center Building with its wide selection of herbs and spices.
Ueno is home to a number of world-class museums within easy walking distance of each other. The National Museum of Western Art complements its permanent exhibition of works by Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso and Pollock with rolling exhibitions. If you prefer your art more contemporary, head to The Ueno Royal Museum. For traditional Japanese works of art, the Tokyo National Museum houses a wide range of oriental artworks and antiquities including ukiyo-e woodblock prints, ceramics and swords. The National Museum of Nature and Science showcases a wide range of exhibits from the natural world with a particular focus on dinosaurs.