Looking for something to do in the city during an eight hour layover in Tokyo, we stumbled upon Ueno, a district in Tokyo that has a variety of sights to keep a tired traveler occupied until it is time to head back for the next flight. Ueno is a particularly good part of town to head to with children in tow, as it offers a park and zoo nearby.
Ueno Park is a large public park located next to the two Ueno train stations. The park complex includes a collection of temples, a lily pond, and several museums. Tokyo National Museum, the city’s largest, is situated in Ueno Park, as is the science museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of Western Art, and the Shitamachi Museum, with exhibits showcasing what Tokyo was like in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The park itself is well-shaded and makes for pleasant ambling. If you visit in March or April, you may catch a glimpse of the many cherry blossom trees in full bloom that line the main path through the park.
Contained inside a larger park complex, the Ueno Zoo is home to a remarkable number of animals and exhibits. Giant pandas are one of the main attractions and we were especially impressed with the arctic polar bear enclosure. For a small additional fee, visitors can ride a short monorail that connects one end of the park to the other. While the zoo is small enough to traverse easily on foot, needless to say, this is a kid favorite. We grabbed some green tea gelato (a first for our daughter), visited the various habitats, and had a lovely time. There is also a small petting zoo, where children can get up close and personal with deer, rabbits, and other gentle creatures.
Ameyoko Shopping Street
Just beyond the park lies the urban heart of Ueno. Unlike the spectacular skyscrapers of Shinjuku, Ueno offers visitors a taste of daily life in Tokyo on a smaller scale. Ameyoko Street contains a wet market, where hawkers sell fresh fish, produce, and other goods. There are numerous clothing and electronic stores in the area as well as bars, cafes, noodle joints and sushi restaurants.