Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Ueno Travel Guide: Explore Arts And Culture In Tokyo's Leisure District
Written by Sawada Tomomi
Ueno is one of the liveliest areas in Tokyo. It can be easily accessed from the airports. Venture through the museums, galleries, zoo, and cultural locations in this area, best known for its famous Ueno Park.
While Ueno is known as a charming area with museums and galleries, there are also parks filled with lush greens and a zoo with pandas in the area. In addition, there are lively shopping areas and even spots where you can see traditional performing arts. With a wide range of things to do, we collected some recommended spots and ways to get around Ueno for you to best enjoy your time there.
1. Ueno's Points of Interest
2. Souvenirs and Shopping Spots in Ueno
3. Food, Restaurants, and Cafes in Ueno
4. Hotels in Ueno
5. Access to Ueno
6. About JR Ueno Station
7. Tourist Information Center in Ueno
8. Recommended Tourist Spots in Nearby Areas
9. Know Before You Go To Tokyo
Ueno's Points of Interest
1. Ueno Zoo
This zoo is known to have the most visitors in Japan. The reason of their popularity comes from the 400 species of animals including the Ezo deer that are unique to Japan and rare animals such as the panda residing in this zoo. Seeing all the animals in a day is very difficult. It is best to select what animals you would like to see and map out a course to spot the creatures you would like to see in advance.
2. Ueno Park
Ueno Park, otherwise known as the forest of Ueno, can be enjoyed throughout the seasons. In the spring, there are cherry blossoms, summer brings lotus flowers in the pond, while in autumn the area visited by many people who wish to see the beautiful red leaves. It is about seven minutes by foot from both Keisei Ueno Station and JR Ueno Station. The park is very large, with a shrine, statues and many other spots to explore. If you study the map in advance, you may be able to tour around efficiently.
For more information about Ueno Park, please read Ueno Park Guide: Ueno Zoo, Museums, Temples and Other Highlights!
A shopping street extending from JR Ueno Station to Okachimachi Station under the elevated train tracks is Ameya Yokocho Street, otherwise known as "Ameyoko" for short. After exiting the Shinobazu exit of the JR Ueno Station, cross the street to find the busy shopping area filled with food, clothes, small items, jewelry, and other great items. This lively street sells things using the old-fashioned way of haggling or bargaining for discounts depending on the store. For those who are good at dealing, why not give it a try?
4. Tokyo National Museum
The oldest Japanese museum is located right in Ueno. It has a variety of important artifacts that are preserved and displayed from all over Japan and other Asian countries. With a collection of over 111,000 items, the museum is separated into the main building with art from Japan, the Asia building with art from Asian countries, and the Heisei building with archaeological artifacts. There is plenty to see at this museum! Besides, helpful guidance in English, Chinese, Korean and pamphlets in German, French, and Spanish are available.
From JR Ueno Station, exit the "Ueno Park exit" and go past the National Museum of Western Art until you see a large fountain in the middle of the park, where you turn right. Further information can be found in the The Wonders of the TNM's Toyo-kan in a Japanese Garden article.
5. Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
Ueno has many museums, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum can be enjoyed for free depending on the exhibit. It is also known for their hands-on event called Tobira Project that allows visitors to enjoy art casually.
6. Ueno Royal Museum
At this museum, you will be able to see artworks by designers and even manga artists. Without permanent exhibitions, this museum hosts exhibitions by invited artists and special exhibitions by privately owned collections from museums outside of Japan. This is a unique museum which sometimes becomes very crowded, depending on what is on display.
7. National Museum of Western Art
For a reasonable fee, you would be able to see famous artwork by renowned artists such as Renoir, Monet, Rodin, and a range of western art from the middle ages to modern art. It is also conveniently located only a minute away from JR Ueno Station, Park exit. Another charming part of the museum is the structure itself that was designed by the famous historical French architect, Le Corbusier. The artistic construction allowed this museum to be rgistered as a world heritage site.
Please read Art and Architecture at The National Museum of Western Art, Ueno for more information about this museum.
8. National Museum of Nature and Science
This museum is Japan's largest and the only National Museum of Nature and Science that has been open for over 150 years. The vast collection of displays that are separated into the Global Gallery and the Japan Gallery; the Japan Gallery will allow you to have fun while looking at rare artifacts. The exhibits in the Global Gallery are themed after space, earth, ecology, biology, history of humans, technology, and of course, dinosaurs.
9. Shinobazu Pond
A natural pond in Ueno Park separated into the exotic 'lotus pond', the 'cormorant pond' with many birds, and the 'boat pond' with fun boat rides is the Shinobazu pond. In the center of the lake, there is an island where you can find the Bentendo temple. The pond is known for its lovely lotus blossoms during July and August, however, the flowers are only in bloom from 7:00 until 9:00 AM and close around noon. For those who would like to capture a sight of the blossoms, waking up early is recommended.
10. Suzumoto Entertainment Hall
The Suzumoto Entertainment Hall is Japan's most historical Yose. "Yose" is a term that refers to establishments where you can enjoy traditional Japanese rakugo (one-man comedy performances) while eating bento, snacks and drinking beer casually. Please look at this site (Japanese) for future rakugo performance schedules at this hall.
11. Takamori Saigo Statue
This is the statue of Takamori Saigo, who contributed greatly to the foundation of modern Japan. This is a popular photo spot.
12. Ueno Toshogu Shrine
Dedicated to shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa who founded the Edo shogunate at the beginning of the 17th century, this shrine is considered to be an important cultural heritage of Japan. The torii gates, large stone lanterns, five-storey pagoda, and the main hall covered in gold is worth a look. With cherry blossoms and peonies in the spring, red leaves in the autumn, and during the beginning of the year, you can enjoy the winter peonies in bloom.
Admission is free, however, if you wish to see the shrine, Buddhist temple, and its treasures up close, an admission fee would be needed. During January and February, admission is also needed in the peony garden.
Other Fun Things to Do in Ueno
Of course, there are plenty of other fun things to see and do in the Ueno area as well, such as paying a visit to Bentendo Temple, in Ueno Park. If you want to see a side of the city that most visitors might miss out on, then take a look at Get Off The Beaten Path: 15 Unique Things To Do In Ueno to plan your trip accordingly.
Souvenirs and Shopping Spots in Ueno
Among the many fresh products, you can find nearly 400 shops standing side by side with food and goods from all over the world. Shops selling products from snacks, spices, clothes, shoes, watches, make-up and more can be found here! Window shopping itself can be very fun in this area.
In addition, you can find stalls with takoyaki (octopus balls), taiyaki (fish-shaped cake), seafood bowls, kebab and many tasty dishes for a reasonable price. They make great snacks to pick up while exploring the shops. Why not try shopping here while getting the feel of traditional Japanese shopping districts? You can find great bargains and those confident enough in Japanese can even try their hand at haggling for discounts. Snack shops are particularly very popular with matcha green tea snacks, wasabi flavored snacks and chocolate that can be bought by weight.
Takeya is a massive shopping mall with over 200,000 items in stock. It is separated into eight buildings, such as the furniture building, miscellaneous goods building, and others. This is a great place to find a variety of souvenirs or simply to shop around for people of all ages. Free Wi-Fi and being tax-free makes shopping easier for visitors from outside of Japan.
Mainly focusing on fashion styles for the younger generation, ABAB is a budget-friendly clothing shop with a 100 Yen shop and supermarket conveniently attached to it.
Marui is a shopping mall focusing on clothes and miscellaneous goods. Not only does it carry clothes and items for women, but there are plenty of items for men as well. The entire sixth, seventh, and eighth floors have a collection of clothes aimed for business, sports, and casual purposes for men. Along with a wide selection of clothes, there are also popular item shops such as MUJI and Francfranc to buy stylish items for your room.
ATRE is separated into the east side and west side, but for shopping purposes, the west side is recommended. The first floor is filled with fashionable brands targeting ladies. ATRE is connected to JR Ueno Station and the west side is right outside of the Shinobazu exit.
Food, Restaurants, and Cafes in Ueno
Local food can almost be considered a necessity when traveling. In Ueno, there are many places to eat, ranging from historical restaurants to fancy cafes. Here are some dining places recommended for lunch, dinner and tea time.
Seven Recommended Restaurants
Lately, tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) has become widely popular even outside of Japan. At Yamabe, you would be able to savor a pork loin cutlet meal for 700 yen. With a thick, juicy piece of pork coated with a crispy coat is delicious when eaten hot. Rice, miso soup, cabbage, and pickles are also included.
This is a popular restaurant where you can savor delicious grilled offals and offal stew. The first floor is spacious and the second floor is a relaxing Japanese-style room. It is frequently filled with people enjoying beer and sake from the middle of the day until 24:00 at night.
Magurobito is a standing sushi shop where people can eat sushi casually for a reasonable price. Most people get full at around 3000 yen worth of sushi. It is a popular restaurant, and at times you may find lines or certain dishes sold out. It is advised for you to go early.
Yoshokuya Sandaime Taimeiken
A western-style restaurant located inside the Ueno Station is Taimeiken. This famed restaurant is known among many Japanese people. The omurice (omelet on rice) is their recommended dish with a fluffy egg omelet and ketchup flavored rice with demi glace sauce poured on top creating this decadent dish.
Ramen Tenjinshita Daiki
When one thinks of ramen in Ueno, this store is probably the first option. With a light soup base and thin noodles, their delicately flavored ramen is loved by many.
Ebi Ginjo Zipang
Another ramen shop is Zipang. Unlike the shop mentioned earlier, the soup at Zipang has a bold and rich flavor of shrimp. Made without any lard or artificial flavoring, the special blend of natural ingredients is the reason for their popularity.
In addition to all the Japanese food, you can also find different cuisines from around the world right in Ueno. Delhi is an Indian and Pakistani restaurant specializing in curry. For those that like spicy food, their cashmere curry is recommended. There are plenty of fans that repetitively come for their curry for years.
Five Recommended Cafes
A lovely cafe inside the Ueno Park. On a sunny day, you can spend a relaxing time in the terrace seats outdoors.
Time passes slowly in this retro cafe. If you would like to experience a classic Japanese cafe, we highly recommend it. Their Napolitan ketchup pasta is delicious!
For those looking for something different than cake and coffee at cafes, this store is recommended for traditional Japanese sweets such as anmitsu (*1) and zenzai which contains rice cakes in red bean soup. It is a cafe with a relaxing atmosphere.
*1 Anmitsu: A traditional Japanese dessert with anko red bean paste and beans, drizzled with molasses in a bowl.
A fancy cafe inside Atre Ueno with a stylish interior and food. It is a great spot to take a break or have a meal after shopping.
This is a retro cafe tucked into the alleyways of Tokyo. A great spot to have a sandwich and spend a relaxing time.
Hotels in Ueno
Here, we will introduce you to recommended hotels in Ueno according to price ranges.
This photo is only a reference.
Tokyo Ueno Youth Hostel
This hostel was formally a business hotel that has been renovated. All rooms are have a private bathing space and toilet. It is not a shared dorm room, however, you must share it with three or more people. In walking distance, there are stations to catch multiple lines. Located only 10 minutes on foot from Keisei Ueno Station, it is a great for accessing Narita airport and other popular spots such as Ueno Park, Akihabara, Ameyoko, which are in a three to five minute walking distance.
Prices are 3500 yen on weekdays and 3900 yen on weekends and holidays.
Address: Tokyo, Taito, Ueno 1-13-6 Niigatakenjin Kaikan 4th Floor
Website: Tokyo Ueno Youth Hostel
Ueno Touganeya Hotel
With a variety of plans, stays here start at 3300 yen per night. There are business plans (from four days and more) that are helpful when staying for a long period of time.
Hotel Mystays Ueno Iriyaguchi
Conveniently located only five minutes by foot from JR Ueno station, this hotel has many rooms with different plans. The most cost-friendly plan starts at 2610 yen for a smoking standard double room for two people. For groups of three, there is a deluxe triple room starting at 2520 yen per person.
All rooms come with a mini kitchen and you can even rent out irons and rice cookers for free. For those who are on a budget or not in the mood to eat out, this may be a handy option. Wi-Fi is, of course, available.
Standard Grade Hotels
Hotel Sunroute Stella Ueno
The popular Sunroute Hotel brand also has a spot only two minutes from Ueno Station.
With many types of rooms, you can select from rooms such as the standard single, modern Japanese single, deluxe single, and stack single according to your needs. Prices start at around 5500 yen per person. Breakfast is a Japanese-Western style buffet for 1300 yen.
Villa Fontaine Ueno
For simple and chic rooms with slightly more space and a larger bed, Villa Fontaine Ueno is a recommended hotel. It also has a free breakfast buffet with bread, salad, soup, scrambled eggs, and meat dishes to start your morning. Prices start from 3796 yen per person.
This photo is only a reference.
Hotel New Tohoku
Only two minutes from Tokyo Metro Ueno Station, this hotel has single, double and twin rooms with single rooms starting at 6200 yen per person. Each room has large beds, bathrooms, flat screen TV, refrigerator, assorted amenities and Wi-Fi.
Amenities can be rented for free along with complimentary newspapers and coffee service in the morning. Restaurants and convenience stores are nearby, however, there is no elevator, so this spot is recommended for those with small luggage or those not requiring assistance.
Hotel Dormy Inn Ueno / Okachimachi
Dormy Inn is a hotel franchise that is located only a minute away from Ameyoko. This hotel chain is known for its large shared bath on the top floor.
The rooms are equipped with beds by the American brand, Serta, with a white and brown interior, giving the room a classic and relaxing feel. All buildings have Wi-Fi and prices start at 6900 yen per person per night.
Access to Ueno
Narita International Airport in Tokyo and Kansai International Airport in Osaka are both gateways for flights from outside Japan. Let us introduce you to the main ways of accessing Ueno station along with how long it takes and prices from the two airports.
Access from Narita Airport
From Narita airport, there are two convenient non-stop ways to access Ueno.
Fastest Way: Keisei Electric Railway Skyliner
From Narita Airport Station, ride the Keisei Electric Railway's Skyliner and arrive at Keisei Ueno station.
Time: 41 minutes
Train fare: The Liner ticket is 1230 yen and the boarding ticket is 1240 yen, totaling to 2470 yen per person. All seats are reserved, so if you plan on boarding, you will need both the Liner ticket and boarding ticket to get on.
Stations: Narita Airport Station at Terminal 1, Narita Airport Terminal 2, 3 Station for terminals 2 or 3
Budget Friendly Way: Keisei Main Line Limited Express Rapid or Limited Express
From Narita Airport Station, ride the Keisei Electric Railway's Keisei Main Line and arrive at Keisei Ueno Station.
Time: Around 70 minutes
Train fare: 1030 yen for Adults
Station to get on: Narita Airport Station at Terminal 1, Narita Airport Terminal 2, 3 Station for terminals 2 or 3
Note: Local people use this line for work and school. Plan carefully so you do not get on this train during the rush hours on weekdays.
Access from Osaka (Kansai International Airport)
This time, we will introduce you to ways to get to Ueno with the least amount of transfers.
From Kansai International Airport, ride the Limited Express Haruka to Shin-Osaka Station. From there, transfer to the Nozomi bullet train to Tokyo Station. Transfer to the JR Keihin Tohoku Line, Negishi Line, Yamanote Line, Tokaido Main Line, or Ueno-Tokyo Line to Ueno Station.
If you travel from Kansai International Airport to Ueno Station in the way mentioned above, the total price including non-reserved seats on the bullet train and limited express Haruka will be 15,180 yen (with reserved seats, it will be 16,270 yen) and the ride will take approximately 4 hours.
Notes and Other Useful Information
Please note that the JR Ueno Station and the Keisei Ueno Station going to Narita Airport are not the same. They are approximately eight minutes away from one another by foot. Also, if you arrive in Osaka, going on a low-cost carrier (LCC) flight to Narita Airport is also a convenient option. Starting at around 25,000 yen, it takes approximately two and a half hours to three hours.
About JR Ueno Station
Pick The Exit According to Your Destination
JR Ueno Station is a station where the bullet train stops and is considered one of the most important stations in Tokyo. The massive station has many entrances and exits, and if you don't use the correct exit, you may be making a bigger detour than imagined. Let us explain which exit leads to the major tourist sites in Ueno.
The entrances to Ueno Station are located on the first and third floor.
1. Shinonbazu Ticket Gate
Shinobazu exit: Ameyoko, Keisei Ueno Station, close to Ueno Station on the Hibiya or Ginza lines.
Hirokoji exit: Marui, close to Yamashiroya
2. Central Ticket Gate
Main entrance exit
3. Park Gate
Park exit (Koen-guchi): Ueno park, close to the Ueno zoo
4. Iriya Gate
Panda Bridge exit
East Ueno exit
To those who wish to tour around Ueno, we recommend using the Shinobazu exit, Hirokoji exit, or Park exit. Depending on your destination, you can either head to the first floor for the Shinobazu gate or the third floor for the Park gate.
Main Trains Lines that Stop at Ueno Station
At Ueno station, there are many train lines that can be used depending on where you are going.
JR Keihin Tohoku Line: Bound for Yokohama or Omiya
JR Yamanote Line: Bound for Tokyo / Shinagawa (outer loop), bound for Ikebukuro / Shinjuku (inner loop)
JR Ueno Tokyo Line: Bound for Tokyo
JR Tohoku Main Line: Utsunomiya line: Bound for Utsunomiya
JR Joban Line: Bound for Sendai
JR Joban Line Rapid: Bound for Toride
JR Takasaki Line: Bound for Takasaki
JR Tohoku / Hokkaido bullet train bound for Shin Hakodate Hokuto
From Ueno station, it takes approximately 90 minutes to Fukushima, two hours to Sendai, three hours fifteen minutes to Morioka, and four and a half hours to Shin Hakodate Hokuto.
JR Hokuriku bullet train bound for Kanazawa
From Ueno station, it takes approximately one hour fifty minutes to Nagano, two hours ten minutes to Toyama, two and a half hours to Kanazawa.
JR Joetsu bullet train bound for Niigata
From Ueno station, it takes approximately one hour ten minutes to Echigo Yuzawa and two hours to Niigata.
The Japan Rail Pass that allows international visitors to freely ride JR lines is very convenient when riding the lines mentioned above.
Along with the JR lines, there are also other train lines you can ride from Ueno station as well.
Tokyo Metro (Subway) Ginza Line Ueno Station
This line is convenient to go to Asakusa and Ginza. Look for the orange mark to get on this line.
Tokyo Metro (Subway) Hibiya Line Ueno Station
This line is convenient to go to Akihabara, Tsukiji, Ginza, and Roppongi. Look for the silver mark to get on this line.
You can get on the two Tokyo metro lines mentioned above at the basement of the JR Ueno station.
Keisei Line Ueno Station
This line is convenient to go to Narita Airport.
Toei Oedo Line Ueno Okachimachi Station
This line is connected to Nishi-Shinjuku Station.
Tourist Information Center in Ueno
When you are lost and confused or have a place you want to go and experience something in particular during your time in Japan, it is best to inquire at the tourist information center.
TOKYO TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER UENO
After getting out of the gates of the Keisei Ueno station, you can find the information center with multilingual support right by. They can assist you with tourist routes, guide you to accommodations, museums, galleries, events, give helpful tips on transportation or even arrange a car rental service. They will provide you with basic information for touring around along with money exchanging. It is great to discuss to make your journey around the area easier. Look for the ninja that is on the exterior of the building.
Gurunavi Information Lounge
Outside of the Asakusa exit of JR Ueno Station, an information center specializing in recommending restaurants is available. Local staff members who know the area will find a restaurant in the Ueno and Asakusa area according to the number of people, occasion, and what you want to eat. You can even specify places according to your needs, such as a place to drink many types of Japanese sake or places that have a vegetarian menu. Many tourists with limited time stop by to get the most out of their stay. Free Wi-Fi is also available.
Recommended Tourist Spots Nearby
Many famous and fun tourist spots are located right by Ueno. Why not extend your journey out to explore the surrounding areas?
Asakusa is a well-known tourist site that is located in the heart of Tokyo. You can see a mix of history and tradition at Sensoji Temple and Nakamise-dori shopping area along with modern buildings like the SKYTREEⓇ. Why not try some local favorites such as soba noodles and weatherfish during your visit?
An area for hobbyists filled with electronics and shops specializing in underground culture. It is a wonderful spot to find electronics for a low cost, otaku merchandise, and souvenirs. For those who wish to indulge in the world of their fandom, you may even find thematic cafes and shops of your preference in this area.
The area between Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi is often referred to as "Yanesen". It is a quaint area where you can slip back in time and get a feel of retro Tokyo, as there are a lot of traditional buildings in the area.
Kappabashi Dougu Street®
A shopping street extending approximately 800 meters filled with shops carrying cooking tools used by professional chefs. It is a perfect place to pick up souvenirs for people who enjoy cooking. You can also find many shops that have or make food samples as well.
Know Before You Go to Tokyo
If you happen to stumble upon basic issues in Ueno, read this article.
What do you wear during different seasons in Tokyo?
How much does food cost in Japan? Let's set a budget before leaving.
Do you need to exchange foreign currency?
If you run out of cash, find an ATM with a "PLUS" mark. You will be able to use a foreign cashing service easily.
It is helpful to use simple Japanese phrases when staying at hotels. Here are a few you can use:
In Japan, there are useful Wi-Fi services such as the "Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi". It is recommended to download the app on your phone prior to coming to Japan.