Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
  • Hokkaido
Sub-zero temperatures and the greatest of outdoor environments, complemented by sizzling soul food and warm-hearted welcomes. Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Sleek apple-red and electric-green shinkansen whisk you up to a haven of fresh powder snow, fresh fruit and fearsome folk legends Fearsome festivals, fresh powder and vast fruit orchards—the rugged northern territory of Tohoku offers a fresh perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
Mountains and sea meet in one of Japan's wildest regions, and the result is sheer beauty. Once largely inaccessible, Hokuriku is now reachable by shinkansen from Tokyo in a matter of hours An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Characterized by the constant buzz of the world's most populous metropolitan area, the Kanto region is surprisingly green with an array of escapes that include mountainous getaways and subtropical islands Experience diversity at its fullest, from the neon of Tokyo to the ski slopes of Gunma, exotic wildlife of the Ogasawara Islands and cultural heritage of Kamakura
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Served by the shinkansen line that connects Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the Tokai region provides plenty of interesting diversions and easy excursions Tokai means "eastern sea," and this region stretches east from Tokyo to Kyoto and includes blockbuster attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
From raucous nights out to outdoor thrills to peaceful reverie, trying to categorize the Kansai region is a futile task The Kansai region is one of extreme contrasts—the neon lights of Osaka and glittering Kobe nightscape, the peaceful realms of Shiga, Wakayama and Nara, and the cultured refinement of Kyoto
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Less-traveled and delightfully inaccessible at times, the Chugoku region is a reminder that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination Welcome to Japan's warm and friendly western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Providing the stage for literary classics, fevered dancing and natural wonders Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
Easily reached by land, sea and air, the dynamic Kyushu prefectures are bubbling with energy, culture and activity The southern island of Kyushu is home to volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky, succulent seafood, steaming hot springs and the country's hottest entrepreneurial town
  • Okinawa
Ruins and recreated castles of the Ryukyu kings nestle amid magnificent beaches in Okinawa, a diver's paradise teeming with an amazing array of coral and undersea life Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings


Ueno Park 上野恩賜公園

An impressive Imperial gift, Tokyo's "Central Park" is now enjoyed by all

Ueno Park is one of Japan's five oldest public parks and arguably the country's most popular, drawing over 10 million visitors every year.

Opened to the public in 1873, its official name is Ueno Onshi-Koen, meaning "the Ueno Imperial Gift Park." Sometimes called Tokyo's Central Park, it's best known for its zoo, many museums, and spectacular cherry blossoms.

Don't Miss

  • The park's art, science, and history museums
  • Shinobazu Pond with Bentendo hall in the middle
  • The statue of Saigo Takamori, "last true samurai"

How to Get There

Ueno Park is a central hub for a number of train, subway, and shinkansen lines.

The JR Yamanote loop line stops in Ueno, four stops away from Tokyo Station. The station can be reached from Narita Airport via the Narita Skyliner, as well as via bullet trains from northern and the west coast of Japan.

Ueno Station is sprawling, but Ueno Park has an easy-to-find dedicated exit. You can see the park across the street from the conveniently named JR Ueno Station Park Exit.

Tokyo's most famous cherry blossoms

Popular for its great museums, the pandas at Ueno Zoo, the Shinobazu Pond, and the historic Toshogu Shrine, Ueno Park's cherry blossoms are what it's most famous for. Accordingly, a visit to the park during spring is a bucket-list item for many Japanese people.

The first trees here were planted by Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. None of those original trees have survived the more than 400 years since then, but the tradition of viewing sakura blossoms in the park has expanded to legendary proportions.

Every year, Ueno Park draws crowds of more than 2 million people during the springtime sakura season, with most of them filling the main path in the park near the entrance to Ueno Zoo. This area has around half the entire park's cherry blossoms, and during its peak, people pick their way through the crowds camped out on picnic mats. It's a raucous outdoor party, lasting night and day, of people eating and drinking under the iconic pink and white petals.

Museums catering for every interest

Home to six museums, Ueno Park is one of the best places to see and study the arts and sciences in Japan.

Exhibiting art, history, science and more, the Shitamachi Museum, Ueno Royal Museum, National Museum of Western Art, National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo National Museum, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum rank with some of the world's greatest museums.

The lesser-known Shitamachi Museum is noteworthy for its portrayals of Tokyo's history. Sometimes easily missed because of Ueno Park's other great museums, a visit here will explain much about the everyday life of old Tokyo.

Shitamachi literally means "lower town," which in Tokyo meant the flatlands on the east side of the city around the Sumida River. The area was not necessarily poor, but rather referred to the "low life" of merchants, craftsmen, fisherman, sailors, and tradespersons who had to work for a living. A visit to the museum will give you a sense not just of the history, but also of the local culture of Tokyo much of still remains today.

Traditional temples and lotus blossoms around the pond

Near the Shitamachi Museum is Shinobazu Pond, a very special place in Ueno Park. The area around it is home to the park's historic temples: Kan'ei-ji, the original grounds of which became the Ueno Park; Ueno Toshogu Shrine, built in dedication to shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu; and Kiyomizu Kannon-do, inspired by Kyoto's famous temple.

Yet the pond's most impressive sight comes in summer every year, when thousands of lotus blossoms give the surrounds a sacred, magical air. The lotus flower has long been associated with purity, rebirth, and divinity in Japan, and the vast numbers of flowers covering the pond should not be missed.

The real "last samurai"

Saigo Takamori was one of Japan's most famous and influential samurai with a long, roller-coaster career. Starting as a rural farmer-samurai in Kagoshima, he was twice exiled, led several wars for the Imperial army, served as a Meiji-era politician, and committed suicide in the Satsuma Rebellion (1877). He was so famous that, after his death, rumors persisted of his return for several years.

Takamori has been called the "last true samurai," for his loyalty, valor, and leading role in history-defining battles. He was a major figure in establishing the Meiji Restoration, which brought Japan into the modern, Westernized age. His bronze statue in the park is one of the most famous statues in Japan.

Nearby surprises

While the park is arguably Ueno's major draw, and ideally requires a day's exploring, it's possible to combine shorter visits with other attractions in the area. A short walk away from the park is Ameya-Yokocho. Known more commonly as Ame-Yoko, the street was once Tokyo's candy central, and is still a bargain shopper's paradise. You'll also find plenty of small outdoor dining spots where you can enjoy kushi-katsu, deep-fried meat and vegetable skewers.

Further away in the same direction as Ame-Yoko is Akihabara. Once known for its appliances, Tokyo's "Electric Town" has transformed, first into a high-tech marketplace, and then into a mecca for anime, manga, games and all things pop-culture. If you walk from inside Ueno Park, through Ame-Yoko, to Akihabara (just a little more than a kilometer in total) you might not believe that it's all the same city, a testament to the scale and diversity of Tokyo.