Ueno

Updated November 8, 2019 | by Chad A. Thiele, 23 year veteran of Tokyo.

Ueno is often referred to as the cultural heart of Tokyo. Loved by tourists for the picturesque park, zoo, and history.

In this modern, yet historic town, Ueno serves as the epicenter for people who seek knowledge of their cultural history. It’s also a place to relax while taking a break from your busy life.

Location

It’s a city of the arts where cultural expression can be seen everywhere you look.

You can spend an entire day exploring the remarkable museums or having fun at the zoo where you can see some of Japan’s native species. Visit the giant panda that China gifted Japan in 1972 as a symbol of the normalization of the relationship between Japan and China.

You don’t have to visit the museums or the zoo to appreciate the historic temples and shrines that can be found inside the park as well.

There are many scenic walkways where you will find historical monuments to visit. They are great for picture taking, but when you understand the history of Ueno, these monuments will have much more of an impact.

Ueno park has always been a safe-haven of sorts to the Japanese people. During the bombings of Tokyo, it provided them protection, and during the Great Kanto Earthquake, it was once again a place where they sought shelter and security.

Eventually, it became a gateway for people coming in from different regions in search of employment, and when they arrived, they were greeted by a wall painting entitled “Freedom.”

This sparked hope in those who entered and eventually inspired the people to keep this park as a cultural awareness of our ancestors and their struggles that brought us to where we are today.


Is Ueno worth visiting?

Absolutely!  

Ueno offers you a more laid back kind of day than the hustle and bustle of downtown Tokyo. The park alone is worth the visit, but the museums are pretty amazing. 

Of course, depending on your point of view when it comes to shopping, it will either be one of the best things you’ve done, or nothing special, but it really depends on you.


What is Ueno Koreatown?

It’s not an official town on the map, but you can ask anyone in Ueno and they know exactly where it is. 

Koreatown is north of Kabukicho and east of Shin-Okubo, but of course, you will know it when you see it. Koreatown has a very different look and feels to it. 

Oh, and the smell, there is a totally different smell to this little city within a city. 

Thanks to Japan’s labor shortage in the ’80s, migrant workers started to flood the area. As they set up shop, they brought their heritage with them. 

They have expanded over time due to more Korean families coming over, but also because people respond to the experience of Koreatown. 

It gives people a little taste of the Korean culture.