Saturday, January 11, 2020

A Day at Ueno Park

We arrived at Ueno-okachimachi Station on the Toei Subway, intending to spend our day at Ueno Park. Instead of walking Nakamachi-dori straight to Ueno Park, we took a longer route via Ameya Yokocho (Ameyoko), a street market just a few steps from the station which will still lead us to Ueno Park.

Ameya Yokocho is filled with shops selling all sorts of things: shoes, clothes, beauty products, fruits, meals, etc. We survived the walk without buying anything! Congratulations!

There were restaurants along Ameya Yokocho, but we weren't feeling hungry...not until we reached the end of the street. We went looking for food at Ueno 3153, the building right beside the steps to Ueno Park. Ueno 3153 offered us some choices: Family Mart, Lotteria, Pepper Lunch, and a couple of restaurants whose names were in Kanji. We picked one which had pictures of delicious looking Japanese food: Satsuma Uosen 薩摩魚鮮 on the 3rd floor of Ueno 3153. My friends ordered 天ぷら せいろ (Tempura Seiro) which had tempura and soba, and 桜島御膳  (Sakurajima Gozen) which had pork sukiyaki, rice, sashimi, and salad. (I had forgotten to take photos of their food, but both meals looked really good!) I, myself, just felt like eating chicken, so it was just チキン南蛮定食 (Chicken Nanban Set Meal) for me.

Chicken Nanban Set Meal (990 yen)

Bentendo Temple
Daily from 9AM to 5PM

With our stomachs filled, we officially started our day at Ueno Park. First: Bentendo Temple. From the south end of the park, the hexagonal tower of Bentendo Temple looked like it was floating in the lotus covered pond. This small Buddhist temple is dedicated to Benten or Benzaiten, the goddess of luck, wisdom, and music.

Front of Bentendo Temple

Bentendo's hexagonal tower

Shitamachi Museum
Tuesday to Sunday 930AM to 430PM
Admission fee: 300 yen

From Bentendo Temple, we hopped, skipped, and cartwheeled to Shitamachi Museum. We requested for a guided tour and the old man behind the reception desk transported us to 1900s Tokyo. On the ground floor of the museum are reconstructions of a merchant home, rowhouses (one with a candy store, the other a coppersmith's shop), a well, and a small shrine. He told us a little history of Tokyo, then showed us the inside of the merchant home, the rowhouses, the shrine. He told us about what life was like in Tokyo around the late 1800s to the mid 1900s, pointed to little interesting items and details in the exhibits that I would otherwise have overlooked, and, at their little shrine, encouraged us to draw an omikuji (paper fortune).

The guided tour was only for the ground floor. We were left to explore the second floor on our own. The second floor has a collection of traditional Japanese toys, a display of a small sento or communal bathhouse, and a tatami room with a TV set, radio, telephone, sewing machine, and things typically seen in a Japanese house in the 1960s.

The museum is so small, one could explore it in just half an hour. But the guide and his stories made the visit interesting that we spent an hour and a half in Shitamachi Museum!

Oh, and before we left, he gave each of us a little origami box!

Shitamachi Museum

Inside a merchant home

A little room in one of the rowhouses

A candy shop in one of the rowhouses

A traditional Japanese toy


The Ueno Royal Museum
10AM to 5PM
Admission fee depends on the exhibit.
Check the website for the schedule of exhibits.

There are around six museums in Ueno Park, and the next one we visited was The Ueno Royal Museum which was having a Van Gogh exhibit! OMG, a Van Gogh exhibit!!! Though it would cost us 1800 yen each to see the works of this great artist, we just had to grab the opportunity. (Me thinking I would probably never get another chance to see Van Gogh's works.)

Taking photos was not allowed and we had to leave our bags and cameras in a locker. Inside the museum, we took our time looking at each of Van Gogh's 83 artworks on display. Van Gogh worked with pencil, chalk, charcoal, watercolor, oil paint. I saw Cypresses with my own eyes! So beautiful, I could cry!!! (And I found new favorites, too: the lithograph of The Potato Eaters, his Self-Portrait with Pipe and Straw Hat, and his etching Portrait of Dr. Gachet!) So glad we were able to catch this exhibit!

By the time we were done admiring Van Gogh's art, it was already dark outside and there was no time to visit the rest of what Ueno Park has to offer:
  • National Museum of Western Art 
    • Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 930AM to 530PM (up to 8PM on Fridays and Saturdays)
    • Admission fee 500 yen (Free admission for permanent collection on the second and fourth Saturday of each month and on May 18 and November 3)
  • National Museum of Nature and Science
    • Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9AM to 5PM (up to 8PM on Fridays and Saturdays)
    • Admission fee 630 yen
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
    • Open daily from 930AM to 530PM (Closed on first and third Monday of each month)
    • Admission is free for permanent exhibits (Admission fees vary for special exhibits)
  • Tokyo National Museum
    • Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 930AM to 5PM (up to 9PM on Fridays and Saturdays)
    • Admission fee 620 yen
  • Ueno Zoo
    • Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 930AM to 5PM
    • Admission fee 600 yen

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Sa May Kanto (2019)
Pocket WiFi: Japan Wireless
Keisei Skyliner and Tokyo Subway Tickets
Tokyo Accommodations: Oak Hostel Fuji, Hostel Owl Tokyo Nippori, Centurion Ladies Hostel  Ueno Park
Food for the Eyes and Food for the Mouth at Asakusa
A Day at Ueno Park (you're here!)
Tokyo Sights Using the Toei 1-Day Pass
Teamlab Borderless
Escape to Mount Takao

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