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Our Favorite Things to Do in Ueno

By Shiho Motomiya | August 29th, 2022 

Ueno is known for its variety of family-friendly activities and tons of tourist attractions you can visit such as visiting the zoo, going to the museums, and visiting shrines and temples. You can also enjoy various types of authentic Japanese foods from tonkatsu to some Japanese desserts. They offer tons of activities that your day will pass by quickly. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Ueno!

This article is a part of our extensive series on Japanese Culture and Online Japanese Lessons at Japan Switch.

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    Seeing a panda eating bamboo is on the list of things to do in Ueno

    Budget-Friendly Things to Do in Ueno

    Ueno Zoo

    One of Japan's most beloved zoos and the oldest zoo, Ueno Zoo includes many unusual animals, such as Hokkaido brown bears, Japanese macaques, and wild cormorants. This park is very famous and known for its wide variety of animals. It is also easy to visit as it is only a 5 minute walk from Ueno station.

    The park is divided into 2 areas, the west area and the east area. You can pay to take the monorail or just walk over the footbridge. There are a huge range of animals in Ueno Zoo- 3,000 animals to be exact, and the most highlighted animals are the pandas In the west area, you will find the Vivarium, Aye-aye Forest, Shinobazu Pond, Animals of Africa, Small Mammal House, Panda Forest, and the Children’s Zoo STEP. In the east area, you will see the Polar Bears and Seal Oceans, Japanese Macaque, Elephant Forest, Bear Hill, Japanese Birds I and II, Japanese Animals, Giant Panda, Nocturnal House, Bird House, and the Gorilla Woods and Tiger Forest. 

    The park offers a mother and cub panda viewing lottery where you will need to enter the lottery to see the pandas closely. Go to their lottery website to learn more about how to register.

    It is a great place for children and adults who are young at heart. The price range of entering the park is very reasonable (listed below) (listed below). You will be able to purchase tickets online and pay by credit card. After purchasing the ticket, they will send you a QR code which you will need to present when entering the park.

    Ueno Zoo Ticket Prices

    Kids (0-12)

    Free

    Students (13-15)

    ¥200

    Adults (16-64)

    ¥600

    Senior Citizens (65+)

    ¥300

    Location: 8-36 Ueno-Park Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0007
    Open hours: 9:30 – 17:30 (Last admission 17:00)
    English support: Yes
    Entry fee: Museum entry is free

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    Museums in Ueno

    Of all the things to do in Ueno, museums are one of our favorite spots whether you’re having a solo day out, looking for a chill date idea, or taking your family out for the weekend. Some of the most well known museums are the Tokyo National Museum, The National Museum of Western Art, National Museum of Nature and Science, The Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Museum, and many other museums. 

    Two of my personal favorite museums are the Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Museum and The National Museum of Western Art where you can see firsthand some exhibitions that only these Museums offer.

    Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Museum

    Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Museum is one of the most famous museums in Japan. They aim "to promote the fine arts for the people of Tokyo." In its new form, the museum hopes to serve as a "doorway to art," welcoming everyone to engaging art experiences. It is a great  place where kids can go, emerging artists can exhibit their work, and anybody, regardless of ability, can freely appreciate art. 

    The museum offers special days (Family Day and Silver Day), so go to their website to find out more about when these special events and days are to make your Japan-experience memorable. The current Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Museum’s current exhibitions are the “Art & Power: From Pharaohs to Daimyōs. Masterworks from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston” and “Finn Juhl and Danish Chairs.”

    Location: 8-36 Ueno-Park Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0007
    Open hours: 9:30 – 17:30 (Last admission 17:00)
    English support: Yes
    Entry fee: Museum entry is free however exhibition fees vary
    Current exhibitions: 

     

    Art & Power: From Pharaohs to Daimyōs. Masterworks from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (July 23, 2022 ~ October 2, 2022)

    Finn Juhl and Danish Chairs (July 23, 2022 ~ October 9, 2022))

    General

    ¥2,000

    ¥1,100

    College Students

    ¥1,300

    ¥700

    Senior 65+

    ¥1,400

    ¥800

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    The National Museum of Western Art

    One of the best museums you can also see in Ueno is The National Museum of Western Art. As of 2015, the museum houses 5,500 works from the 14th century to the 20th century. The museum is only a minute walk from the station so the access is easy. 

    The National Museum of Western Art offers audio guides for English, Korean, and Chinese for ¥300.

    The main collection of the museum is a French art collection called the Matsukata Collection. Their current exhibitions are “In Dialogue with Nature – from Friedrich, Monet, Van Gogh to Richter,” “Towards Harmony: Le Corbusier and the Art of the Second Machine Age – Works from the Taisei Corporation Collection,” and “Examining Western Prints – Etching: Mastering Line, Transcending Line.” 

    Location: 7-7 Ueno-koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0007
    Open hours: 9:30 – 17:30 (Last admission 17:00)
    English support: Yes
    Entry fee: See below

    Adults ¥500
    College Students ¥250

    High school students or younger.

    Those over the age of 65.

    Those under the age of 18.

    Those with physical or mental disabilities, and one accompanying person per disabled visitor.

    Free

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    Bars in Ueno

    Drinking in Ueno is one of the most fun things to do in Ueno at night (or even in the day!) that those who legally can do when visiting Ueno. There are bars where you can go that offer awesome deals for you to try and enjoy drinking only in Ueno!

    Highball’s Ueno

    Highball’s Ueno is a 3 minute walk from the station making it very convenient to pass by and get a couple of drinks before going home. The bar offers 16 different varieties of whiskey. They are budget-friendly as you can order any food, from Japanese otsumami karaage to  pizza, and you can order any highball off the menu for ¥120! 

    Address: 7-1-1 3F Ecute, Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0005
    Open hours: 7:00 am to 22:00 pm
    English menu: Yes
    Price range: ¥2,000 ~ ¥3,000
    Number of seats: 17 seats

    Beer Bucks

    Beer Bucks is located near the Ueno-Okachimachi Station and it only takes 2 minutes to get there. Beer Bucks offers open air seats for people who want to drink outside. They are known for not just their beer selection but also their food choices. Some examples of their food are teriyaki chicken, cheese fondue, pizzas, steaks and many more. They are known for having the best meat meals to partner up with your drink. You can reserve different kinds of courses, one of their courses is the Beer Garden course where you can drink all you can beer and choose many kinds of BBQ sets. They also have a Brazilian BBQ course and a Party course! 

    Address: 2-3-1 B1 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0005
    Open hours: 7:00 am to 22:00 pm
    English menu: Yes
    Price range: ¥2,000 ~ ¥2,999
    Courses price range:  ¥3,500 to ¥7,500
    Number of seats: 120 seats

    If visiting restaurants and bars seems daunting because your Japanese is, how shall we say, still developing? We've got you covered with our Ultimate Guide to Ordering Food in Japanese right here.

    Must visit red temple in Ueno

    Cultural Things to Do in Ueno

    One of our favorite things to do in Ueno is to stop by the shrines and temples.  It is very important to visit these places to really feel and learn more about Japanese culture. These places are to go to if you want to experience the culture of Japan.

    Kaneiji Temple

    Located near Uguisudani Station- the next station after Ueno in Yamanote Line, Kaneji was built in 1625 by Jigen-daishi Tenkai, a great priest, on a plateau in Ueno, which is located to the northeast of Edo Castle, to pray for the safety of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the peace of all the people. The temple also received the head of Toeizan from the Imperial Household (Rinnoji-miya), making it the largest temple in Japan in terms of prestige and size during the Edo period. The temple is famous for its five-story pagoda. 

    Address: Ueno Sakuragi 1-14-11, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0002  
    Open hours: 9:00 am to 17:00 pm
    English support: No
    Entry fee: Free

    Marishiten Tokudaiji Temple

    Located near the Okachimachi Station, Marishiten (Marishi means "majestic light and flame") is a heavenly deity that protects Buddhism, and is said to be the most spiritual guardian deity of all the heavenly deities, giving "energy, strength, and financial power" to those who pray to him, and "removing evil, inviting good fortune, and opening up luck. They are currently limiting people who can enter the main hall to 50 people because of the pandemic, make sure to get a reservation if you want to visit the temple. As the temple is near Ameyoko, where there is a lot of crowd, the top of the temple can be peaceful. 

    Address: 4-6-2 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0005
    Open hours:  8:00 am, 10:00 am,12:00 noon, 14:00 pm, 16:00 pm, and 18:00 pm
    English support: No
    Entry fee: Free

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    Ueno Tosho-gu

    A 10 minute walk from the station, Ueno Tosho-gu is a shrine that enshrines Ieyasu Tokugawa (Tosateru Daigongen) as a deity, and there are many such shrines throughout Japan, including Nikko and Kunouzan. You will be greeted with the exterior of gold. This shrine is believed to be especially beneficial for success in life, victory, health, and longevity. There is no charge when you look around outside of the wall.

    Address: 9-88 Ueno-koen,Taito-ku,Tokyo
    Open hours:  Winter Season (Oct.-Feb.): 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
    Summer Season (Mar.-Sep.): 9:00 am to 5:30 pm
    English support: No
    Entry fee: See below

    Adult (over 13years old) ¥500
    6~12 years old ¥200
    Under 6 years old Free
    Groups of over 20 people ¥400 / person

    The Shrine and Peony Garden  ¥1,100 (adult)

    Gojoten Shrine

    A 3 minute walk from Ueno Station, this temple was built in the reign of the 12th Emperor Keiko, when he passed through Hoshigaoka in Ueno on his way to conquer the eastern barbarians, he was grateful for the blessings he received from the two great gods of medicine and ancestry, and enshrined them at this site. The shrine now enshrines Sugawara no Michizane and is one of the three major Tenjin shrines in Edo (Tokyo) and one of the seven Tenjin shrines in the eastern part of the city. The shrine is used by people who are praying for healing and also students hoping to pass exams.

    Address: 4-17, Ueno-koen, Taitou-ku, Tokyo, 110-0017
    Open hours: Open 24 hours
    English support: No
    Entry fee: Free

    JAPANESE CULTURE... THERE'S A LOT. 

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    Japanese Theater in Ueno

    Japanese theater vs. American theater  

    When thinking of the word “theater,” Japanese people may think of Noh plays or Kyogen, traditional Japanese performing arts, while Americans may think of Broadway musicals. While “Noh" and "Kyogen" are traditional and still passed down in Japan, but few people are actually skilled in or interested in them, American theater culture and American musicals, especially since 1970, have begun to change in terms of their qualities. The possibilities for "musicals" have expanded greatly in various ways, including dance-oriented productions, productions with no particular plot, and rock musicals, which have never existed before.Through theater, we can see that the cultures of both countries have different ways of feeling and expressing themselves.

    Types of shows and how to buy tickets 

    There are many kinds of shows that Japanese theaters offer, traditional performing arts include Gagaku, Noh, Kyogen, Bunraku, Kabuki, and a wide variety of folk performing arts, while modern and contemporary forms include Shinpa Gekijo,and Shingeki. In order to watch the traditional theater in Japan, you will need to buy some tickets. 

    There are various ways to purchase tickets. You can purchase them online, by calling the theater itself, or by purchasing directly from their ticketing box. The ticket price range usually starts from ¥1,500 to ¥5,000. However, depending on the theater you will go to, the price range either goes up or down. Some famous Japanese theaters range from ¥6,000 to ¥20,000 depending on where you sit. 

    You can also purchase a ticket on the day of the act called “Single Act Tickets” ; these tickets are for people who do not want to get reservations or for the beginners to the performances. The prices are reasonable starting from ¥1,000 to ¥2,000. Be sure to fall in line quickly so you can get your tickets as they are usually sold fast.

    Theater in Ueno

    3 Japanese Theaters in Ueno

    Suzumoto Performing Arts Hall

    One of the theaters you can see in Ueno is the Suzumoto Performing Arts Hall, Suzumoto-engeijyo is a theater where you can enjoy Japanese traditional comedies. You will be able to watch "Rakugo", "Manzai", "Trick show" and so on. You can bring your food and drinks. This is great for people who have N2 level Japanese and want to improve their listening and understanding of deeper Japanese idioms or words. this is not somehow a good place for them to visit unless you speak Japanese as they use some deep Japanese.

    Address: 2-7-12 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0005
    Open hours: 9:00 am ~ 19:00 pm
    Number of seats: 285 seats
    Entry Fee: See below

    Adult ¥3,000
    Students (Junior high ~ College) ¥2,500
    Elementary Students  ¥1,500

    They do not allow kids who are not yet elementary school age (below 5 years old). 

    Oedo Ueno Hirokojitei

    This theater is situated where Chuo Dori and Kasuga Dori join at the Ueno Hirokoji crossroads. You can watch story-telling performances by the Rakugo Geijyutsu Kyokai (Association for the Art of Rakugo), under the direction of Utamaru Katsura, every month from the 1st to the 15th. The association puts on a pleasing variety of acts, such as folk songs, comedy, storytelling, and magic. There are also regularly scheduled performances, recitations of stories accompanied by shamisen, a three stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument, and other recitation styles such as the Tachikawa and Enraku group. 

    Address: 1-20-10 2F, Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0005
    Open hours: Afternoon performances (13:00 pm) and night performances (18:30 pm)
    Number of seats: 70 seats
    Entry Fee: Varies depending on performance

    Kuromontei 

    Kuromontei performs rakugo. Rakugo is a Japanese traditional comedy, the performer will usually only use a paper fan and a small cloth as a props while performing. Kuromontei is located in a secluded residential area and seems to be flagged off only when there are performances, be careful as there are no other marks to recognize the building. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the traditional comedy of Japan. It is fascinating how they make their performances interesting by using just a paper fan and a small cloth.

    Address: 1-9-5 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0005
    Open hours: Friday night, Saturday afternoon / night, Sunday afternoon
    Number of seats: 40 seats
    Entry Fee: ¥1,000 

    If theater is your thing, now is as good a time as any to really dig in with our Ultimate Guide to Japanese Customs.

      

     

     

     

     

    Our Favorite Must-Try Restaurants & Cafes in Ueno

    Ueno offers tons of cuisines you need to try! Here are some of out favorite restaurants and cafes you need to try when visiting Ueno. 

    Ponta

    Ponta is a Japanese style Western food serving tonkatsu and other grilled pork dishes. They continue to offer the same taste that has not changed since the establishment of the restaurant in 1905. They also offer private rooms for their customers who are in group of over 10 people.

    Address: 3-23-3 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0005
    Must-try dishes: Katsuletsu, Tongue Stew
    Price range: ¥3,000 to ¥5,000
    English support: Yes. Ponta also have menus in simplified Chinese
    Open hours: 11:00 am to 14:00 pm
    16:00 pm to 20:20 pm

    Izue Honten 

    Izuei opened in Ueno Ikenohata, where the current head office stands, during the reign of the 8th Shogun, Lord Yoshimune. Three hundred years have passed since then, and the restaurant continues to be loved by customers. The most popular course is the "Matsu Course" at 8,640 yen. Starting with appetizer, sashimi, a simmered dish, vinegared dish, unaju, and a dessert, the menu is a must try for anyone looking for an authentic Japanese dining experience. 

    Address: 2-12-22 Ueno Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0005
    Must-try dishes: Eel (Unagi)
    Price range: ¥3,000 to ¥22,000
    English support: Yes
    Open hours: 11:00 am to 21:00 pm

    Image of street restaurants at night andThings to do in Ueno

    Domremy Outlet

    Domremy Outlet is a minute walk away from the station, they are named "Domremy" because they want to pursue the creation of delicious confectioneries that give the feeling of "peaceful happiness" like the village of Don Remy. 

    Address: 2-14-28 Ueno Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0005
    Must-try dishes: Cake, Tart, Puddings
    Price range: ~ ¥1,000
    English support: No, but you don’t need to worry as you choose and take the desserts you like and just pay for it at the counter.
    Open hours: 11:00 am to 21:00 pm

    Totenko 

    Originally opened in 1961, the Totenko Ueno Main Store has been newly reborn as a nine-story building, offering 18 various private rooms and banquet halls, dining rooms, a café, a chapel, and other venues for various occasions. From small groups to banquets for up to 400 people, they have the right space for each occasion. 

    Address: 1-4-1 Ikenohata, Taito-ku 110-8707 Tokyo
    Must-try dishes: Dim Sum, Cold Noodles
    Price range: Lunch: ¥2,000 to ¥2,999
    Dinner: ¥8,000 to ¥9,999
    English support: Yes
    Open hours: 11:30 am to 22:00 pm

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    Kurofunetei 

    In the Taisho era (1912-1926), when the second generation was running a restaurant called "Cafe Kikuya," they were already serving hashed rice. What they have been seeking since those days was Japanese food that incorporated Western things into Japanese culture, in other words, Japanese food in the name of Western food.

    Address: 4F Kikuya Bldg 2-13-13 Ueno Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan 110-0005
    Must-try dishes: Beef Stew, Japanese Style Hamburg Steak
    Price range: Lunch: ¥2,000 to ¥2,999
    Dinner: ¥3,000 to ¥3,999
    English support: Yes
    Open hours: 11:30 am to 22:45 pm

    Ueno Green Salon 

    Ueno Green Salon is a cafe-restaurant. Stuffed panda toys and decorations can be found throughout the restaurant. The restaurant is open and bright, with many panda motifs on the menu. There are also many other fun menu items such as panda sweets and lattes. It is a restaurant that the whole family can enjoy. 

    Address: 7-47, Ueno-koen, Taito-ku 110-0007 Tokyo
    Must-try dishes: Rice Bowl Dishes, Curry de Panda
    Price range: Lunch: ¥8000 to ¥1,000
    English support: Yes
    Open hours: April to November: 9:00 am to 18:00 pm
    December to March: 9:00 am to 17:00 pm

    Final Thoughts

    Ueno is a place where you can have a lot of fun with your friends and  family. The list of things to do in Ueno is by no means limited to what I’ve talked about above and these are simply a collection of our staff favorites! By spending a day there, you can experience many different parts of Japan all at once, and really dig into the culture of Japan. I hope this article will help you on your journey in Ueno. 

    If you're looking to spice up your evenings a little beyond the old izakaya/karaoke combo, start with our Ultimate Guide to Tokyo at Night!

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