Ueno Park

Ueno Park Shrine
Ueno Park Shrine

The largest and oldest Tokyo Park, Ueno was first opened to the public in 1873 and is today one of the prime attractions in Tokyo for tourists and locals alike. With cherry blossoms blooming in the spring and lotuses flowering in the summer, this Tokyo Park is the city's most beautiful spot for hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties). And with numerous temples, shrines, unparalleled art museums and a zoo, Ueno Park is one of the most cultured Japan attractions. Yet unlike the refinement of the other major Tokyo Park, Ginza, Ueno has always retained the working class roots of the merchants, laborers and rural peasants who have long enjoyed its easy style and unpretentious natural beauty.

Museums

Ueno Park Temple
Ueno Park Temple

Among the best attractions in Tokyo are the many art, history and science museums. Ueno Park is home to the Tokyo National Museum, The Orient Museum, The National Science Museum, and the Museum of Western Art, just to name a few. With so many attractions in Tokyo demanding your attention, you may not have time to visit every museum Ueno has to offer. Of all the museums in or near Ueno Park, the Tokyo National Museum is the best, and worth a visit. The National Museum is Japan's oldest, and, with over 87,000 pieces, it boasts the world's largest collection of Japanese art, only a portion of which is on display at any time. The museum has four galleries, housing everything from ancient Japanese swords, to Egyptian archaeological finds, to Buddhist art works, to artifacts once used by the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido. Culturally speaking this museum is one of the most significant Japan attractions.

Cherry Blossoms

Sightseeing in Japan often means nothing more than looking up at the beautiful, blossoming cherry trees. If you happen to visit Tokyo from late April to early May you can witness one of the most famous Japan attractions—the blooming of the cherry blossoms. Head for Ueno Park's tree-line promenade where locals are spread out beneath the trees for cherry blossom viewing parties known as hanami. As idyllic as a hanami party sounds, the reality is that cherry blossom viewing usually includes multiple bottles of sake, karaoke machines under every tree, and thousands of usually straight laced clerks and businessmen letting their hair down. The spectacle alone constitutes some great sightseeing in Japan.

Ueno Park Zoo

Another excellent opportunity for sightseeing in Japan is the Ueno Park Zoo. Opened in 1882, the Ueno Park Zoo is the oldest and the largest zoo in Japan. The giant panda, Sumatran tiger and western lowland gorilla are the top draws among Ueno Park Zoo's 420 species. One of the top Tokyo tourist attractions (especially if you are traveling with children), the Zoo is only a five minute walk from the Park Exit of Ueno station, and has a monorail (Japan's first) connecting the eastern and western grounds of the zoo. The zoo is open from 9:30am to 5pm, and costs 600 yen. Children 13 and under are free.

So of all the Tokyo tourist attractions, Ueno Park is a beautiful escape from the craziness of Tokyo in general, and offers some of the best sightseeing in Japan for old and young alike.

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