Landmark parks and zoos, the arts and culture meet the electricity of modern pop culture
Ueno and Akihabara are neighboring districts in Tokyo, but they couldn't be more different in style, substance and atmosphere. While Ueno boasts the zoo that shares its name, as well as many national museums, art galleries, parks and performing arts venues, Akihabara is geek heaven, an electronic wonderland known worldwide for its tech and pop subculture elements such as manga and anime.
- Strolling through Ueno Park, especially when the cherry trees are in bloom
- The quirky maid and manga cafes of Akihabara
- Ueno's bustling Ameyoko shopping street, full of bargains
How to Get There
Ueno Station and Akihabara Station are the best places to start exploring this area. Both are major stops on the JR Yamanote Line.Akihabara is two stations from Tokyo Station and is followed by Okachimachi and Ueno stations.
Where nature, art, culture, and history intersect
Ueno is a neighborhood known for its namesake zoo, Japan's oldest, and its giant pandas. The zoo also features the "Gorilla Woods" and "Tiger Forests," where they are attempting to breed endangered species.
The magnificent Ueno Toshogu Shrine enshrines the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, and is famed for its displays of peonies and dahlias in the Botan Garden.
Ueno Park has a lake you can cruise around on, a forest, and an art museum and gallery. From its origins as the private grounds of Kaneiji Temple , through samurai wars, Imperial ownership, and today as a public park, Ueno Park has remained a central gathering spot in Tokyo.
Walking from Ueno to Akihabara
Ameya Yokocho , or Ameyoko as it is usually called, is a bargain hunter's dream. You can find snacks, clothing, cosmetics, jewelry and more in this lively Ueno shopping district, often at huge discounts.
As you continue following the train line, you'll encounter 2k540, making innovative use of the space under the train tracks, featuring artisan products and trendy cafes.
A paradise and gathering place for Tokyo's subcultures
In Akihabara , you're surrounded by anime, manga, smartphones, games, maids, idols, cosplay and geeks, or otaku. This is also Tokyo's undisputed center of electronics and tech, but it's the pop culture icons that dominate the visual landscape. J-pop artists frequent the area to meet fans and be seen.
A shrine with an anime mascot
Nearby Kanda-jinja Shrine , popularly known as Kanda Myojin, blends elements of tradition and pop culture. Because of its proximity to Akihabara , many young people and manga artists pray for good fortune at Kanda Myojin. You can see their art on wooden wish plaques, called ema, hanging at the shrine.
Edo meets chic style
Hongo and the area known as Yanesen —comprised of Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi—form a hilly residential neighborhood that is unusual in Tokyo. It's a rare part of Tokyo that has remained largely intact since before World War II and known as shitamachi, the city's old downtown.
Many of the old buildings have been renovated, presenting a chic version of the old downtown architecture that once dominated the city.
A new generation of young people have discovered Yanesen and love its unique balance of old and new. A mix of small inns, modern tea houses, wagashi patisseries and art gallery workspaces are transforming Yanesen without destroying its traditional charm.
The University of Tokyo, a giant institution with Imperial origins, is remarkable for its role in the background of this transformation. Todai's students and faculty have embraced Yanesen's revitalization.
Take your time to get lost
Whether you're a fan of old or new, you can see another side of Japan here, far from the shiny tourist facilities. See how the locals live, meander down side streets, marvel at the scenes unfolding above and below, and step into places that pique your interest.