Ueno

Ueno Station is located in Taito Ward in northern Tokyo. Being the main station of the area, it is a major commuter hub and a terminus for the railways bound for the Tohoku region (the northeast region) from Tokyo.

Ueno Station is served by Tokyo Metro Ginza and Hibiya Lines; and East Japan Railway Company Akita Shinkansen, Hokuriku Shinkansen, Joetsu Shinkansen, Tohoku Shinkansen, Yamagata Shinkansen, Joban, Keihin-Tohoku, Takasaki, Tohoku Main, and Yamanote Lines.

Ueno Station is one of the oldest stations of the city. It was renovated in 2002 giving it a new look. The central concourse has a wide open space in the center. A huge wall painting of the original station has been placed above the ticket barrier. The restaurant area is under the railway tracks.

Ueno

Known as the Gateway to the North, Ueno is a district in the northern ward of Taito just west of Asakusa. It originated as a small town built around Kaneiji Temple, later becoming shitamachi , or “downtown”, during the Edo period. Today it is a great market place and known as the home to Ueno Park, the Zoo, and some of Tokyo's finest museums. The marketplace is to the east of the Station with several small street markets and hundreds of clothing shops selling used and new goods, as well as western style trendy clothing. The west side of the Ueno Station is mainly Ueno Park.

Ueno Park

Ueno Park is Tokyo's oldest and largest park located adjacent to Ueno Station. The site was originally occupied by Kaneiji Temple, built to guard Edo Castle from the northeast. During the Boshin War, the temple was destroyed and the site, now owned by the Imperial Family, was opened to the public in 1873 as a park. In 1924, Emperor Taisho granted the land to the city of Tokyo and since then Ueno Park belongs to the City of Tokyo. The official name of the park is Ueno Onshi Koen , meaning "Ueno Imperial Gift Park".

Today, Ueno Park is one of the most popular places in Tokyo. It is a large spacious park covering an area of 533,981 square meters with over 8,650 trees and 86,800 shrubs. Most of the trees at the park are Cherry trees, which makes Ueno Tokyo's most popular spot for outdoor hanami (Cherry blossom viewing) parties from late March to early April.

Ueno Park is also home to six museums, a zoo, a concert hall, a pond, shrines and monuments. These attractions have made Ueno Park even more famous as a tourist and recreation area among both the Japanese and foreigners.

Attractions at Ueno Park 

Museums:

1.  Tokyo National Museum

Opened in 1938, the Tokyo National Museum is a massive museum housing the largest collection of Japanese art in the world. With over six thousand exhibits spread over five buildings, Tokyo National Museum is the largest museum in Japan. The five buildings, grouped around a courtyard, are:

Honkan ( Japanese Gallery ): The present building, designed by Jin Watanabe, was completed in 1938. Constructed in eastern architectural design, the Honokan building was designated “Important Cultural Property” of Japan in 2001.

The Japanese Gallery consists of 24 rooms on 2 floors exhibiting Japanese art objects from 10,000 B.C. up to the late 19th century. Ten rooms on the 1 st Floor have sculptures, metal work, pottery, katana , ethnic material, modern art and the like. Ten rooms on the 2 nd Floor with the title “The Flow of Japanese Art” have inter-connected exhibits such as Buddhist Art, Art of Tea Ceremony, Attire of Military Elite, Noh and Kabuki, etc. One room is an event meeting place for children, and the extra rooms are for small special exhibitions.

Toyokan ( Asian Gallery ): Inaugurated in 1968, this three-story building is dedicated to the art and archaeology of Asia, including China, Korea, India, Egypt and the Middle East. The exhibition rooms are arranged region-wise. On the 1 st Floor, one room has sculptures of India and Gandhara and two rooms have objects from Egypt, West Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. The 2 nd Floor is dedicated to China, with two rooms exhibiting Chinese artifacts and archeology, and one room Chinese painting and calligraphy. One room is a special exhibit room, and one is a Lounge. The 3 rd Floor has 2 rooms on art objects from Central Asia and the Korean peninsula. 

Hyokeikan : Hyokeikan opens to the public only for temporary exhibitions and special events. Built in 1908, the Hyokeikan building has a beautiful design based on Western-style architecture of the period. The building has been designated as an “Important Cultural Property”.

Heiseikan: The Heiseikan was opened in 1999 to commemorate the Crown Prince’s marriage. The building houses the Japanese Archaeology Gallery on the first floor, and special exhibition galleries on the second floor. The building also contains an auditorium and a lounge.


The Archaeology Gallery covers Japanese history from ancient to pre-modern times through archeological objects. Some rare objects include Middle Jomon-period pottery (circa 3500 BC-2000 BC) and terra-cotta figures (called haniwa) dating from the 4th to the 7th century.

Horyu-ji Homotsukan (Horyu-ji Treasures Gallery): This modern museum, designed in 1999 by Yoshio Taniguchi, houses art objects donated by the Horyuji Temple. In 1878, the 7th-century Horyu-ji in Nara presented 319 works of art in its possession to the Imperial Household. These objects were later transferred to the National Museum in 2000, and since then are displayed in this specially built Treasures Gallery.


The Horyu-ji treasures are primarily from the 7th and 8th centuries and include sculpture, scrolls, Buddhist gigaku masks and the like. The museum also has a small library on the second floor with computer access to online library resources in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, English, French, and German. A restaurant is located on the first floor.

The Tokyo National Museum also conducts research and organizes educational events related to its collection. The Research and Information Center, as it is known, allows visitors access to its books, magazines, and large-format art books, as well as monochrome and color photographs for research purposes.

There is also a Museum Shop offering a variety of items based on objects and motifs in the Museum's collection, including t-shirts, stationary, ukiyoe prints, postcards, and many more. Traditional Japanese crafts by contemporary artists are also available.

2. The National Science Museum

The National Science Museum, with evolution as its main theme, has exhibits on practically everything from flora and fauna, to the solar system. The Museum consists of three buildings – the Main Building, the Midori-Kan Building and the New Building.

The Main Building, framed by a steam locomotive on one side and a 30 meter statue of a diving blue whale on the other, has three floors. The first floor traces evolution of life from the dinosaurs to Homo Erectus. The second floor has the theme Natural Selection and the third floor has diverse exhibits - plants and animals specific to Asia, traditional Japanese clocks, and various items related to exploration of space.

The New Building has five floors. The first floor has fossils and dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period; second floor goes by the theme "Discovery Plaza"; the third has the theme "Discovery Wood"; and the top two floors are reserved for special exhibitions.

Midori-Kan Building is the smallest of the three buildings. It exhibits diverse objects, among them are the popular stuffed body of Hachiko (the dog who died waiting for its master and who’s statue stands at Shibuya) and the giant pickled squid!

3. The National Museum of Western Art

Established in 1959, the National Museum of Western Art presents Western art from the 15th to 20th centuries with the emphasis on France. The collection was originally started by business tycoon Kojiro Matsukata as he toured Europe in the early 1900's. The collection, which includes works of such artists as Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Monet, and Rodin, was kept in Europe, but Matsukata left it to Japan in his will. The French government sent the collection to Japan after World War II, and the artwork was opened to the public in 1959.

The main building of the National Museum of Western Art, designed by the French architect Le Corbusier, has two floors. The first floor displays Rodin and French Modern Sculpture and the second floor has Italian paintings from before the 17th century; 17th century paintings from Holland, Spain, France, Flanders and other places; late Gothic and northern Renaissance paintings; and 18th century European paintings. On the first floor of the New Wing are post-Impressionists and 20th century paintings, and the second floor is occupied by Monet, Rodin, and Neoclassicism to Impressionism.

In the garden at the entrance of the Main Building stand three of Rodin’s sculptures, including the famous The Thinker. Facilities at the museum include a shop (selling stationery and sundry goods featuring images from NMWA works besides books on art subjects), and a Café. There is also a Research Library with over 24,000 volumes on Western art history (the majority in Western languages), magazines, and approximately 37,000 microfiches. Researchers can use the literature by prior appointment.

4. The Ueno Royal Museum

The Ueno Royal Museum is a small museum owned by Japan Art Association, headed by Prince Hitachinomiya. Opened in 1972, the museum has no permanent collection of its own. It holds special exhibitions of important cultural assets, primarily of modern paintings and calligraphy. It also promotes educational activities by organizing a members club and offering art classes and sketch outings at various locations.

5. Shitamachi Museum

Shitamachi Museum is a small two-floor museum. Ueno was once the “downtown” area and as Shitamachi literally means “downtown”, Shitamachi Museum seeks to preserve the flavor of the area's life in the Taisho Era (roughly the 1910s and 1920s). It offers a glimpse into the life of the area with recreated interiors, furniture, tools, and implements from the period, with suitably aged staff providing a warm touch.

The first floor of Shitamachi Museum has two main displays - a merchant house and a tenement, intact with all the right furnishings. Visitors are allowed to take off their shoes and enter the rooms. On the second floor are displays of toys, tools, and utensils of the time, mainly donated by people who had grown up with them and used them. Occasionally various traditional skills are demonstrated and visitors are allowed to try their hands at them.

Shitamachi is a “don’t miss” museum and a pleasant experience.

6. Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, founded in 1926, displays the work of Japanese contemporary artists. Displays cover all forms of art - paintings, sculptures, crafts, graphic designs, calligraphy, and so on.

The Museum has six galleries, and each of the galleries requires a separate admission charge. Five of these galleries are hired out to various art groups, so exhibitions change periodically. The sixth gallery is reserved for special exhibitions.

The Museum also holds art lectures and workshops.

Other attractions:

Concert Hall

The Concert Hall, or Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, is Tokyo's most well-known location for the performance of classical music, opera, and dance. Located at the entrance to Ueno Park, Bunka Kaikan was opened in 1961. It consists of two halls, conference rooms, rehearsal rooms, and musical reference rooms. The large hall has a capacity of 2,303 and is suitable for orchestral concerts, musicals and dancing. The small hall has a capacity of 653 and is suitable for smaller concerts. There is also a restaurant with seating for 141 offering Japanese food and drinks, including beers, wines and cocktails.

The International Library of Children’s Literature

The International Library of Children’s Literature, a part of National Diet Library, was opened in 2002. The building, constructed in 1906 and expanded in 1929, is a unique blend of architectures from three different eras and has been designated as a historic building by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The building consists of three floors - the first is the Children’s Library with a collection of over 177,000 volumes of books and 1,504 serial titles of children's Japanese literature as well as literature from other countries, especially Asia; the second floor has researchers’ reading rooms; and the third consists of a museum of general interest related to books, a media corner, and a hall.

Ueno Zoo

Ueno Zoo, owned by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, is located inside Ueno Park. Opened in 1882, it is Japan’s oldest and most famous zoo. It has a large array of animals and birds from all over the world, set in environments of their natural habitats. Confinement is kept to a minimum. The Zoo is divided into 63 sections, like Japanese Animals, Animals of Africa, a petting Children’s Zoo, and so on. The main attractions of the Zoo are its giant pandas, tigers, and gorillas.

There is also an Ueno Zoo Monorail located inside the zoo, which is the first monorail of the country. This 0.3-km long suspended monorail connects the eastern and western parts of the grounds and operates only on the days the zoo is open. It costs 150 yen for the 90-second ride.

Shinobazu Pond

Shinobazu Pond is a large pond located in the southwestern part of Ueno Park. This beautiful artificial pond is full of lotuses and water-fowl. Rowing or pedal boats can be hired at a price. In the middle of the pond there a small island on which stands the picturesque little Bentendo Temple. This temple is dedicated to goddess Benzaiten, the goddess of prosperity and the arts. The Temple building dates back to 1958, the original 17th century building having been destroyed during the World War II bombardments.

Statue of Saigo Takamori


The massive Statue of Saigo Takamori inside Ueno Park is one of the best known monuments in Japan. A popular local hero, Saigo Takamori is credited with restoring the Emperor after bringing an end to the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868. It was here in Ueno Park that Saigo led the imperial troops against the last of the old feudal Bakufu forces and defeated them. Later in 1877, however, discontented with the new Meiji Government, Saigo became the leader of the anti-government Satsuma Rebellion. He was unsuccessful and committed suicide. The statue was erected in 1898. Japanese people revere Saigo Takamori so much that when after World War II, General Douglas MacArthur demanded its removal, people refused to remove it.

Tomb Site of the Shogi-Tai Soldiers

The Tomb Site of the Shogi-Tai Soldiers was erected in 1868 to honor the soldiers killed in the Ueno War. Ueno War was fought in 1868 between the armies of the Edo Shogunate and the Emperor, and the Shogi-Tai were the Ogawa people who fought as soldiers in the army of the Shogunate. After the war, the survivors of the Shogi-Tai obtained permission from the Meiji Government and built the graveyard in honor of the killed soldiers. The graveyard, or Tomb Site, was looked after by the Ogawa clan till 2003 when the Tokyo Metropolitan Government took over.

Toshogu Shrine

Toshogu Shrine, located at the edge of Ueno Park, is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo Shogunate. Dating back to 1651, it is one of Tokyo's most tastefully preserved shrines. Having miraculously escaped the disasters of the Battle of Ueno in 1868, the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, and the wartime bombings of Tokyo in 1945, Toshogu Shrine retains its original glory with its gold and green roof and luxurious gilt walls.

Toshogu Shrine is approached through a paved tree-lined path under arches. At the end of the path is the main gate with one of the three largest lanterns in Japan standing on the left side. Both sides of the gate, also called the Karamon, are carved with flowers and birds, but what stand out are the two exquisitely carved dragons. There are 50 large copper lanterns in front of the Karamon, many of them lining the path approaching the shrine. Each of these lanterns has been given as an offering by a daimyo making a visit. The name of the daimyo is written at the base of the lantern.

Once inside the gates, the main Hall of Worship, or the Haiden is approached. This is where the priests and shrine maidens participate in the ceremonies of the Toshogu. The walls and ceilings of the hall are covered with paintings believed to have been painted by the members of Kano school. Surrounding the Haiden are intricately carved corridors. A long wooden wall, called Mizu-Gaki, is built around the whole Haiden structure. This wall is also intricately carved with figures of birds, fish, and flowers.

In 1873 Toshogu Shrine was declared a Tokyo Municipal Shrine, and in 1907, the Haiden, Karamon and Mizu-Gaki were declared National Treasure.

Kaneiji Temple

Kaneiji Temple once occupied the whole of what is now Ueno Park. It was built in 1625 by the Buddhist priest Tenkai, on the request of the Tokugawa shogun to protect Edo Castle from the northeast, a direction considered to be unlucky. Covering an area of more than a million square meters, the huge Kaneiji Temple consisted of several buildings. Almost the whole of the temple complex was burned down and destroyed during the Boshin War of 1868 when the Shogunate fell to the Imperial forces. What only remains is the Five-Story Pagoda which ended up in the middle of Ueno Park. The present Kaneiji Temple, tucked away at the northern edge of Ueno Park, was relocated from Kitain at Kawagoe, Saitama prefecture in 1879 in memory of the old one. The Temple building is not much to look at, but is important only from the historical point of view.

Jomyoin Temple

Jomyoin Temple is located near Kaneiji Temple. Originally the residence of one of the 36 priests of Kaneiji, Jomyoin is now a temple in its own right. Jamyoin is famous for its 84,000 jizo (statues of the bodhisattva guardian of children) which are arranged in rows in the temple grounds and are a stunning sight.

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