Ueno (上野) is a district in the Taito Ward of Tokyo. Known for its many cultural sites including Ueno Park, the Tokyo National Museum, the National Science Museum, and the National Museum of Western Art, Ueno is a hub for art and culture in the center of Tokyo.
Ueno’s history is rich with various different residents and attractions. Home today to a number of Buddhist Temples, including the Bentendo Temple in the Shinobazu Pond, the Pagoda that still remains from the Kan’ei-ji Temple of the Tokugawa Shoguns, and the Toshogu Shinto Shrine to Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Ueno is considered part of the Shitamachi or down-town district of Tokyo where the working class denizens of Tokyo often lived. The area today has retained much of its land value however due to close proximity to Ueno station and other transportation hubs. However, the area is also well known as a meeting place for many of Tokyo’s homeless citizens.
In the heart of Ueno is Ueno Park, well known for its spring cherry blossoms and its summer lotus blooms. As the oldest and still largest park in the city, it is a hub for tourists, locals, and even royalty, and is home to temples, shrines, pagodas, ponds, zoos, and museums. The Tokyo Culture Hall is home to the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, built in 1961 to commemorate the city’s 500th anniversary. Beside the Culture Hall is the National Museum of Western Art where art work collected by Kojiro Matsukata in the 1900s is on display. This includes works by Renoir, Van Gogh, and Rodin.
Also in the park is the Tokyo National Museum, where five separate buildings combine to hold 86,000 exhibits. The buildings themselves are all constructed with different styles, some of them in the Western style of the 1960s and others in the Japanese style of the 1920s and 30s. Also nearby is the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art where contemporary Japanese artwork is displayed.
The Ueno Zoo is known for its five story pagoda dating back to 1631 and the Giant Pandas on display and costs only 500 Yen for adults. The Toshugu Shrine, dedicated to the first Shogunate of the Tokugawa Era was completed in 1651 and sits just outside the zoo.
On the south side of the park is the Shinobazu Pond where visitors can rent pedal boats and view the lotuses that grow there. The Pond itself has been drained in the past, used after World War II for fields. In 1949, the water was replaced and the man-made island in its center that houses the Bentendo Temple was built (in 1958). The Temple is mostly a reconstruction of an original design from the 17th Century that was destroyed during World War II.
The Ameyayokocho Black Market started up shortly after World War II ended and supplied multiple American style foods; crudely translated it means “American Shop Alley”. Today, most of the shops in this area sell clothing and bags with very little food offered, but some of its roots still remain.