Top 32 Things to Do in Ueno
Things to do in Ueno are many and varied. From exploring the famous park and its museums to shopping in the bustling Ameya-Yokocho, visitors are spoilt for choice. Discover it all, with us.
Ueno, located in Tokyo’s Taito Ward to the east of the city, is one of the city’s finest areas to explore as a tourist. The area is synonymous with the fantastic Ueno Park; a sprawling patch of tranquillity in the midst of the city, where visitors flock for a cultural fix at one of the many museums and galleries or to simply relax among the greenery and calm.
However, there’s more to Ueno than just its park. Five minutes away you’ll find Ameya-Yokocho, a warren of shopping streets ever abuzz with activity; there are myriad restaurants, bars and pubs; great nightlife; excellent hotels; to put it simply, Ueno is not lacking for things to do. To discover the best of it, keep reading.
Ueno Attractions & Sightseeing
Ueno Park’s formal title translates to “Ueno Imperial Gift Park”; a reminder that the whole site was formally an estate of the Imperial family which was only handed over to the municipal government in 1924 as a gift on the occasion of the emperor Hirohito’s wedding. The park’s former royal status is still evident today, not least in the space it is afforded and the elegance of its landscaping.
Emerge from the Park Exit of Ueno Station and you’ll already be within sight of the park, in fact, it’s difficult to miss. Indeed, the whole area stretches from the station to the large and impressive Shinobazu Pond to the south-west.
In the spring, the park becomes one of the city’s best spots for cherry blossom viewing, or hanami, for which thousands descend on the park each year to bathe in the beauty of the flowers and to eat and drink copiously. The rest of the year should not be overlooked, however: the red leaves in the autumn, the Christmas lights in the winter and the fun of the summer are all equally great.
Today, Ueno Park is most well-known for its museums. The park doubles as Tokyo’s principal museum district, home to an impressive array, including the vast National Museum. Below, find a full guide to each of the museum’s you’ll find in the park, as well a look at the many other features that make it so unique.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 5-20, UenoKoen, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 110-0007, Japan Phone: +81 3-3828-5644 Website: Ueno Park
If Ueno Park wasn’t impressive enough already, it’s also home to Ueno Zoo, Japan’s very first and one of its largest. With over 3,000 animals from 400 different species, there’s plenty to see, including the stars of the show: the pandas. You’ll find the animals spread over two sections, the East Garden and West Garden, connected by the Ueno Zoo Monorail.
Away from the animals, visitors can also explore remnants of Kan Ei’ji Temple, including an impressive five-story pagoda, and Cormont Pond, one of the three sections that make up the larger Shinobazu Pond.
To find the zoo, simply follow the signposts within the park. Adult admission is roughly 600 yen.
For more on Japan’s wonderful zoos, take a look at our rundown of the very best.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 9-83 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo 110-0007, Japan Phone: 363-3983-3838 Website: Ueno Zoo
Kan Ei’Ji Temple
Once one of Japan’s most prestigious temples with over 30 buildings and immense power, Kan Ei’ji Temple remains a great historical site to explore. As one of the Tokugawa clan’s principal temples, it is the resting place of six shoguns and where the shogunate’s supporters made their last stand against the forces of the Emperor. Bullet holes from this event can still be found in the wooden structures today.
What remains of the temple is fantastic, especially for those with a special interest in Japanese history. Exploring is free, though, as mentioned, to get up close to the pagoda you’ll need to enter Ueno Zoo next door.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 1-14-11 Uenosakuragi, Taito, Tokyo 110-0002, Japan Phone: +81 3-3821-4440 Website: Kan Ei'Ji Temple
Although modelled after Nikko’s main shrine, Toshogu Shrine is just as impressive and another Ueno shrine well worth checking out. Having undergone its fair share of war and natural disaster, Toshogu has come out the other end unblemished, now providing visitors with the chance to discover some original Edo architecture up close.
Like our former entry, Toshogu Shrine was also central to the Tokugawa Shogunate. Indeed, the first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, is buried here.
Entry to the outer shrine is free, but to explore the inner shrine and its beautiful gardens, an admission fee of just over 1,000 yen is required for adults. Children under six go free.
Station: Keisei Ueno Address: 9-88, UenoKoen, 9, Taito, Tokyo 110-0007, Japan Phone: +81 3-3822-3455 Website: Toshogu Shrine
Kiyomizu Kannon Temple
Built in 1631, Kiyomizu Kannon Temple is one of the city’s oldest and a survivor of the civil war of 1868. Formerly part of the Kan Ei-ji Temple, today, it is a stand alone temple in its own right.
Resembling the famous Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto, Kiyomizu is a beautiful example of temple architecture. It is dedicated to Kosodate Kannon, the god of childbearing and raising, and is thus a popular destination for women wishing to conceive a child. Many women leave dolls representing children at the temple as a form of wish. On September 25th each year, a requiem is held in which all the dolls are sacrificially burnt.
The temple is also surrounded by lush nature and is a great spot to see the cherry blossoms in spring. Find the entrance to the temple close to the statue of Saigo Takamori in Ueno Park.
Station: Keisei Ueno Address: 1-29 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo, 110-0007, Japan Phone: +81 3-3821-4749 Website: Kiyomizu Kannon Temple
Shinobazunoike Benten Temple
Shinobazu-no-ike Benten Temple, or Benten Temple for short, is another excellent Ueno temple overlooking Shinobazu Pond. The temple’s principal deity, Benten, is the goddess of good fortune, wealth, music and knowledge.
The temple itself is located on an island in the middle of the pond. Originally, the temple could only be accessed by boat, but now, luckily, a bridge has been constructed. The temple is another great hanami spot but is abundantly relaxing at any time of the year.
Station: Keisei Ueno Address: 2-1, Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo 110-0007, Japan Phone: +81 3-3821-4638 Website: Shinobazunoike Benten Temple
Hanazono Inari Shrine
Hanazono Inari Shrine is notable for its corridor of red torri gates, reminiscent of those found in Kyoto. An original feature of the shrine is its mysterious cave, originally built by the monks as a refuge for displaced foxes. Although you’re unlikely to spy a fox today, the cave remains a sight to behold.
The shrine is also said to hold mystic, healthy giving energy and to be a ‘matchmaking’ shrine, where couples can bless their relationship and singles can make a wish.
Station: Keisei Ueno Address: 4-59 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo 110-0007, Japan Phone: +81 3-5246-1111
Loacted to the south-west of the park, Shinobazu Pond is one of its most popular features. More of a lake than a pond, it is so large it is divided into three sections: Hasu no Ike (Lotus Pond), U no Ike (Cormont Pond) and Boto no Ike (Boat Pond).
Hasu no Ike is best seen in the summer when the eponymous lotus flowers are in bloom. The peak for this is July to August. Rather unhelpfully, during these months the park is only open to the public from 7:00 to 9:00 in the morning.
U no Ike takes its name from the birds that inhabit it and is most notable as the inspiration for a number of literary works, including Moru Ogai’s The Wild Geese and Yasunari Kawabata’s Boshi Jiken.
Boto no Ike is popular with those after some fun, it being the part of the pond where paddle boats are available to rent during the spring and summer months. It is also a good spot for hanami.
Station: Keisei Ueno Address: 15-20 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo 110-0007, Japan Phone: +81 3-3828-5644 Website: Shinobazu Pond
The Ueno Daibutsu is a giant bronze head modelled after deity Shaka Nyorai. Originally connected to a large full-body statue, the head survived the Great Kanto Earthquake and the Metal Acquisition Law of the Second World War, and now stands proud against all the odds. Find the Ueno Daibutsu close to the Hanazono Inari Shrine
Station: JR Ueno Address: 4-8, UenoKoen, Taito, Tokyo, 110-0007, Japan Phone: +81 3-3821-4749
Saigo Takamori’s Statue
A statue by Koun Takamura, a notable Japanese sculptor, which is perhaps his most famous work. The statue depicts Saigo Takamori, a figure known widely as the “Last Samurai” for his role in the downfall of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the dawn of the Meiji Restoration.
Surprisingly, the military man is depicted in a casual robe and sandals alongside his dog, as if about to embark on a stroll in the park. For those wondering, there’s no resemblance to Tom Cruise to be dedicated.
Station: Keisei Ueno Address: 5-20 UenoKoen, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 110-0007, Japan
Tokyo Bunka Kaikan
Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, or Ueno’s “Music Palace” is one of the city’s top venues for a spot high-culture. Here, catch some opera, ballet or classical music from an ever-interesting lineup of Japanese and international artists. The building itself is a striking work of modernism rivalling Le Corbusier’s effort next door. To get inside, take a look at the official site for ticket information or check out one of the in-house restaurants.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 5-45 UenoKoen, Taito, Tokyo, 110-0007, Japan Phone: +81 3-3828-2111 Website: Tokyo Bunka Kaikan
University of Tokyo
The University of Tokyo is Japan’s most prestigious university and its main campus can be found in Ueno. The university’s campus is steeped in history and is an excellent sightseeing spot in itself. On weekends, free campus tours are offered to those who make advanced reservations, apart from during examination periods. The tour is conducted in both Japanese and English and its highlights include Akamon Gate, Yasuda Auditorium, Sanshiro Pond and the university library.
Station: Todaimae Address: 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo, Tokyo 113-8654, Japan Phone: +81 3-3812-2111 Website: University of Tokyo
Nezu Shrine is one of Tokyo’s oldest and most beautiful, and designated as an “Important Cultural Property of Japan” by the government.
The springtime sees the shrine at its verdant best, with its 3,000 pink and white azalea’s bursting into life. Celebrating the flowers is the annual Bunkyo Azalea Festival, an event that’s well worth checking out. The shrine’s torii gates are similarly picturesque.
Station: Todai-Mae Address: 1-28-9, Nezu, 1-28, Bunkyo, Tokyo, 113-0031, Japan Phone: +81 3-3822-0753 Website: Nezu Shrine
Formerly the property of Mitsubishi Motors president Iwasaki Hisaya, Kyu Iwasaki Tei Garden is now open for everyone to enjoy. Although advertised as a garden, the estate’s main attraction is the architecture. The so-called Western House was designed by British architect Josiah Conder and recalls Jacobean England – it is thus one of the few examples of authentic Western architecture in the city. In stark contrast, the Japanese House, unsurprisingly, is built in a traditional Japanese style, replete with screen doors and motifs by artist Hasimoto Gaho. In other areas, visitors will discover buildings built in Pennsylvanian and Swiss styles.
Station: Yushima Address: 1-3-3-45 Ikenohata, Taito, Tokyo, 110-0008, Japan Phone: +81 3-3823-8340 Website: Kyu-Iwasaki-Tei Gardens
Neko Maru Cafe
If the sights and sounds of Ueno have you overwhelmed, calm yourself down with some feline company at Neko Maru Cafe. Home to more than 26 cats, the cafe is one of the city’s best cat cafes – a phenomenon that has caught on like wildfire.
Typically, reservations are not necessary, though if you’re visiting on a weekend or want to be sure you won’t be left disappointed, call or email ahead of time.
If animal cafes are your bag, let Compathy Magazine introduce you to the best of them.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 8th Floor 東叡堂ビル, 7-2-2 Ueno, Taito, Tokyo 110-0005, Japan Phone: +81 3-5826-2501 Website: Neko Maru Cafe
Ueno Park’s museums are one of its premier tourist draws. Take a look at the best, below:
For more Tokyo museums, take a look at: The Top 14 Tokyo Museums.
Tokyo National Museum
Impressively, the Tokyo National Museum ranks among the largest in the world. It is also Japan’s oldest museum, at over 140 years old. The purpose of the museum is to give an overview of Japanese and wider Asian history from pre-history to the present. To do this, the museum utilises over 100,000 display items, including 87 national treasures and 634 ‘Important Cultural Properties’. These items are made up of architectural finds, artwork and other curiosities, all wonderfully displayed and helpfully placed in context.
The museum is made up of six main galleries, all covering a different period or aspect of history. To fully immerse oneself in the museum and everything it has to offer, it is recommended that at least half a day be set aside. Conveniently, the museum is also home to a variety of cafes and restaurants serving up everything from multi-course meals to snacks.
For adults, entry costs roughly 620 yen.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 13-9 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo, 110-8712, Japan Phone: +81 3-3822-1111 Website: Tokyo National Museum
National Museum of Nature and Science
The National Museum of Nature and Science is another large museum, not far from the Tokyo National Museum. Guiding visitors through the worlds of nature and science, from primitive history to space technology, using interactive exhibitions and expertly curated displays, the museum is a lot of fun for all ages and highly informative. The highlights include an impressive collection of taxidermied animals and the 360-degree theatre: an immersive multi-dimensional cinema experience that never fails to impress.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 7-20 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo, 110-8718, Japan Phone: +81 3-5777-8600 Website: National Museum of Nature and Science
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum is comprised of six galleries, each of which is used to house regularly changing exhibitions from a wide range of Japanese and international artists in an array of genres and styles. In the past, the museum has hosted travelling exhibitions from the likes of Paris’s Pompidou Centre and the British Museum, as well as exhibitions displaying works from greats such as Van Goth and Monet.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 8-36 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo, 110-0007, Japan Phone: +81 3-3823-6921 Website: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
National Museum of Western Art
The National Museum of Western Art’s building is arguably just as significant as any of the works of art it houses, designed as it was by French architectural pioneer Le Corbusier. Yet, what you’ll find within – art from the Western tradition from the Renaissance through to the early 20th century – is just as impressive. You’ll find this one, again, in Ueno Park, very close to the main entrance and the station’s Park Exit.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 7-7 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo, 110-0007, Japan Phone: +81 3-3828-5131 Website: National Museum of Western Art
Perhaps less grand that the previous museums on this list, Ueno’s Shitamachi Museum is no less interesting. The museum is dedicated to exploring the history and lives of ordinary Tokyoites during the Taisho Period (1912 – 1926). Specifically, the museum looks at Tokyo’s flatlands (Shitamachi), roughly the area from Taito to Chiyoda and Chuo, which were, at that time, working-class districts of the city.
The museum is divided into three sections: Nagaya (tenement house reconstruction), Dagashiya (a sweet shop reconstruction) and a coppersmith’s workshop. Most of the museum’s artefacts are original and donated to the museum by members of the public. Whilst not flashy, this is certainly one of Ueno’s most enlightening museums.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 2-1 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo, 110-0007, Japan Phone: +81 3-3823-7451 Website: Shitamachi Museum
Daimyo Clock Museum
Daimyo Clocks were first conceived in the 16th century, modelled after clocks brought to the country by Western traders and missionaries. These clocks did not accurately not tell the time, instead, serving mainly as a display of wealth for their owners (the Daimyo, or feudal lords).
The Daimyo Clock Museum dedicates itself to these items, put together largely using the private collection of one obsessive collector, Kamiguchi Guro. Whilst not a huge museum, it provides a great insight into a topic you never knew could be so interesting.
Station: Sendagi or Nezu Address: 2-1-1-27 Yanaka, Taito, Tokyo, 110-0001, Japan Phone: +81 3-3821-6913
Ueno isn’t all greenery and culture, there’s also a whole lot of shopping to be done. Find in Ueno everything from clothes and accessories to food, souvenir items and gadgets.
Ameya-Yokocho comes in stark contrast to the peacefulness of the park. It is a bustling warren of tight streets lined with shops and stalls of all kinds, where you get a real taste of contemporary Japan. Cheap clothes and accessories are probably the most prominent items on offer, though whatever you’re looking for you’re sure to find.
Once you’re all shopped out, Ameya-Yokocho is also crammed with charming little izakaya and restaurants. These local joints are always welcoming to tourists and promise cheap snacks and drinks.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 4-11 Ueno, Taito, Tokyo, 110-0005, Japan Website: Ameya-Yokocho
Takeya, locally known as the “Purple Building”, is a mammoth duty-free store spanning a jaw-dropping 42 floors. Takeya sells it all: medicine, cosmetics, electronics and much more, all at heavily discounted prices.
Unsurprisingly, Takeya is popular with foreign travellers, for whom the store is well-prepared with 10 foreign language interpreters. if you’re after a bargain, Takeya should certainly be on your itinerary.
Station: JR Okachimachi Address: 4-４−３３−２,Taito, Tokyo, 110-0016, Japan Phone: +81 3-3835-7777 Website: Takeya
Whether you’re travelling with kids or just a kid at heart, you’re going to love Yamashiroya. The building has six floors, each packed with toys of all kinds, games, figurines; essentially, everything and everything kids love.
The store gets pretty busy on a weekend so visit on a weekday if you can. If not, get there early.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 6-14-6 Ueno, Taito, Tokyo, 110-0005, Japan Phone: +81 3-3831-2320 Website: Yamashiroya
ABAB Ueno Store
ABAB Ueno Store is a seven-floor mall geared towards young women. On the first to the sixth floor, shop for women’s inner and outerwear, all at reasonable prices. On the seventh floor, find Daiso, a popular and good-quality 100-yen shop and Sweets Paradise, an all-you-can-eat dessert restaurant.
Station: JR Okachimachi Address: 4−8, 4-8-4,Ueno ,Taito ,Tokyo ,110-8541 , Japan Website: ABAB Ueno Store
Ueno’s abundance of things to do means that you’re going to be getting hungry at some point. Luckily, Ueno restaurants aren’t lacking in number or quality. Here’s a few of the best.
Opened in 1872, Seiyoken was one of Tokyo’s first Western-style restaurants, leading the way in the country’s embrace of Western cuisine. The menu is packed with Western dishes, with the most popular being the Hayashi rice; a sort of slow-cooked meat hash with a thick demi-glaze source. This dish, like so many in Japan, is a Japanese take on Western cooking, rather than being authentically European or American.
Located on a hill overlooking Ueno Park, Seiyoken offers great views of the area. In the summer, the rooftop beer garden is a great spot to relax with a drink or two.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 4-58 Uenokoen, Taito, Tokyo, 110-0007, Japan Phone: +81 3-3821-2181 Website: Ueno Seiyoken
Opened in 2012, Ueno 3153 is a restaurant complex that replaced the dilapidated Saigo Kaikan building. The name is a tribute to Saigo Takamori, for in Japanese, the number 3153 read aloud sounds like ‘Saigo-san’ – an affectionate name for the warrior.
The building houses many restaurant chains, including seafood specialists Satsuma-Uosen and beer hall Ginza Lion.
Station: JR Ueno Address: 1−57,Uenokoen ,Taito ,Tokyo ,110-0007 ,Japan Website: Ueno 3153
Hantei Nezu is a traditional restaurant housed within an original building that managed to survive the Great Kanto Earthquake and the bombs of World War Two. The speciality is kushiage: deep-fried skewers of meat and vegetables. The skewers are delicious and come served in the traditional way – served continually until the customer indicates they’ve had enough. There’s also a good array of desserts to choose from.
Station: Nezu Address: 2-12-15,Nezu,Bunkyo,Tokyo,113-0031,Japan Phone: 03-3828-1440 Website: Hantei Nezu
Kamachiku is a popular udon restaurant housed within a stylish refurbished warehouse. To keep things simple, there are just two choices: cold and hot. There’s nothing flashy about the menu, but they must be doing something right having been awarded a prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand award.
If you want to guarantee a seat, reservations can be made two days in advance. However, no reservations are taken for weekends, so make sure you get there early on a Saturday or Sunday.
Station: Nezu Address: 2-14-18 Nezu, Bunkyō-ku, Tōkyō-to 113-0031, Japan Phone: +81 3-5815-4675 Website: Nezu Kamachiku
Ueno Bars & Nightlife
Yanaka Beer Hall
Don’t let the name deceive you, Yanaka Beer Hall isn’t really a hall, more a bar inside a pre-war Japanese house. Despite the historic facade, within, the bar is nicely modern, making for an excellent place to spend a few hours.
Yanaka Beer, a tasty amber pilsner, is the house speciality, a drink that goes well with the Japanese-style BBQ snacks also on offer. There’s only room for around 20 people at one time and opening hours are irratic (sometimes opening as early as 11:00 and closing as early as 20:30), but it’s well worth seeking out for a unique drinking experience.
Station: JR Nippori Address: 2-15-6 Uenosakuragi, Taito, Tokyo 110-0002, Japan Phone: +81 3-5834-2381 Website: Yanaka Beer Hall
An izakaya is a Japanese-style pub, and machi translates as ‘town’, yet, don’t get your hopes up too much, this is more of a street than a town. The street, however, is lined with a number of different izakaya, all relatively cheap for beer, sake and snacks. A great place to unwind after a long day of sightseeing.
Bordering Ueno is the ever-popular district of Asakusa. Although a well-established tourist hotspot, Asakusa does well to retain its traditional charm and ambience. Split a visit to Ueno and Asakusa over a day or two, but be sure to give yourself enough time to explore each.
For the full lowdown on Asakusa, take a look at Top 42 Things to Do in Asakusa.
For top tips from other travellers and the chance to have your say, try out our Compathy travel app.