Exploring Wonderful Ueno!

When planning a trip to Japan and visiting Tokyo, there are probably a few neighborhoods that come to mind when you're in the stages of mapping out what you want to do and see. Places like Shinjuku, Shibuya, or Harajuku often tend to be the front runners when it comes to being well known tourist spots. There's one neighborhood I hadn't heard of until I moved here, which has a ton to offer - and that neighborhood is Ueno!
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Ueno is one of those places that to me punches well above its weight when it comes to things to do and see!

Ueno Park

You may have heard of Ueno Park (it's actually one of the most popular parks in Tokyo - and an awesome spot to check out the sakura blossoms!) and there seem to be little treasures hidden around every turn. Finding temples and shrines when you're walking around is so much fun! The below picture is of Bentendo Temple, which is a Buddhist Temple in the park dedicated to the goddess of wealth, happiness, wisdom and music.
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You can even rent a swan boat to cruise around the lake on, if that sounds like fun to you! I think it would be particularly nice at this time of the year to do something like that!

Ueno Zoo

This is actually Japan's oldest zoo - it's been around since 1882!
They're closed every Monday, but if you are wanting to visit a zoo in the middle of the city it's relatively inexpensive to do so here.
Adults (16-64 years) are 600 yen admission, seniors over 65 are 300 yen,  students are 200 yen, and children under 12 are FREE!

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This map, from the Ueno Zoo website, gives you a bit of an indication of the exhibits that are at the zoo. You can view the image in higher resolution on their website directly. One of the big drawcards when I went was the pandas!

You could even get panda pancakes! Aren't they cute? (Slightly melty, I know - it was the middle of summer when I went!)

And of course, it wouldn't be a trip to a zoo in Japan without buying some commemorative giraffe ears, right?


Within Ueno Park itself, there are a number of great museums to check out.
Tokyo National Museum
This is Japan's biggest museum - so it could be a good one to check out if you're short on time and had to pick just one. There's a significant amount of Japanese Art if you're into that - and regular special exhibits.
Admission Costs:
Adults: 620 (520) yen
University Students: 410 (310) yen
High/Junior High/Elementary School Students and persons under 18 and over 70: Free
National Science Museum
This was a favorite for me - there was a huge amount of space dedicated to animals and nature in the museum which I found really interesting. I feel like this museum is especially good for kids if they're into animals, dinosaurs and things like that.
General Admission is ¥620, high school students and younger are free!
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
I haven't yet been to this museum myself, but from October this year they have a special exhibition called Van Gogh and Japan, which I am really interested in checking out. It's a little pricier here for the special exhibits - the Van Gogh special  for advance tickets is general admission ¥1,300, College students ¥1,100, High School students ¥600 and Seniors 65+ ¥800.

National Museum of Western Art
If Western art is more your jam, this place is probably right up your alley. Their permanent collection includes artists like Picasso, Renoir, Van Gogh and Monet. Adult admission is 430 yen, college student admission is 130 yen - and anyone over 65 or high school age and below gets in free.
Just a quick heads up - most museums in Japan are closed on Mondays - so if you're planning a special trip I would recommend double checking that with the particular museum(s) you plan to visit!
a glimpse from my trip to the National Science Museum


There are a number of malls in Ueno, but if you're wanting a more unique experience, one of the well known shopping streets in Ueno is called Ameyoko Street. It's got more of a market vibe to it, and you can find just about anything - clothes, shoes, make up and other beauty products, food...it's a good place to pick up gifts and souvenirs for people, and the times that I have shopped there I have found the prices to be pretty reasonable!
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picture credit - Japanguide.com

Hopefully that's been a little window into the gem that is Ueno - if you love nature, museums, shopping and the beauty of Japan's traditional shrines and temples, you're bound to find something to interest you!

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All pictures are my own unless specified!

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