Things to do in Ueno, Tokyo

Ueno (pronounced when-oh) is a district in the north of Tokyo city, not far from Asakusa.  It’s a great spot for visitors to the city and is best known for its vibrant park, buzzing market streets, museums and of course its food.

Ameyoko on Ueno food tour

Getting to Ueno

Ueno is easy to access by the train system from both the airport and other parts of the city.  If you’re coming in from other parts of Tokyo both the above-ground JR lines and the subway system will be easy options. 

The station was originally opened here is 1883 and the current building dates back to 1932. It’s stayed a major hub for the city as the entry point to Tokyo from the north with the Shinkansen (bullet trains) picking up here on their way to stops such as Kanazawa, Nagano or the northern island of Hokkaido.  There’s also easy access to the airport with the Keisei Skyline from Narita airport.

So what are the top things to do in Ueno?

Ueno Park

Ueno park is huge and although we have visited several times there is a lot to see. If you are staying nearby, or up early i’st nice to start the day with a walk around the lake in the quiet of the morning. 

The lake in Ueno Park

In spring the new lily pads will be starting to sprout up in the lake with the promise of a stunning display again come summer. The swan boats that you can take for a romantic paddle out on the water later in the day are tied up and there are a variety of birds resting on the water and in the surrounding trees. 

This park is a place of constant activity though, even in the early hours.  Cyclists and runners pass by, others are out walking and there is intense activity putting up tents and covers for what will be an avenue of food stalls a little later in the day.

Walking paths through Ueno Park

The park will become busier as the day goes with many attractions focused in and around it but it is always with a visit. Many festivals, monthly and seasonal events are hosted here and it’s a popular cherry blossom viewing spot. There is also usually entertainment of some form going on here, musicians playing, dancing and acrobatics, we’ve seen the Taiko drums being played and magic tricks for the children

Ameyoko market

One of our top spots in Ueno and a really popular spot with both locals and tourists is the Ameyoko market. It’s easy to find across the road from the station and is always a good place to start exploring.

Things to do in Ueno - market street

The market here started after WW2 selling sweets and other black market items during the occupation, today you can find a bit of everything here but there are still plenty of sweets and some good bargains.

The market sits along side and under the Yamanote Line and you will find pretty much anything you want here. It started and became known for sweets and you will still find plenty of those here with some great deals on some popular options like unique flavours of Kitkats and Tokyo Bananas. Equally you can buy wet fish and traditional vegetables alondside second hand kimonos, toys, souvenirs, electronics and some fabulous street food.

Most stores open mid-morning and it is a busy place for the rest of the day until it closes around 8 pm so be prepared for that especially on weekends and holidays.

Usagi-ya Cafe

When we hear about a local foodie highlight we are always ready to make a small detour for the experience so when we were told that Usagiya has been considered THE place to get dorayaki since 1913 we had to try it for ourselves.

Dorayaki are those tasty little Japanese pancake treats that are traditionally filled with sweet red bean filling.  While the shop and cafe are open all day there is a special treat in store for the first few customers of the day who get the set menu of deconstructed dorayaki.

That means you need to be in the queue by 9 am. We were staying at The New Otani in Akasaka so we took the Ginza subway line to Ueno-Hirokoji, which is one stop before Ueno and Usagi-ya Cafe is less than a 5-minute walk from there.

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