2020 NO.28

Strolling JapanStrolling Japan


Where History and Culture Shine amid Big City Bustle

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Ueno is a district that offers visitors a diverse range of attractions—from shopping to gourmet dining to art appreciation. Come explore this special place, where downtown bustle coexists with the calm and quiet of art and cultural establishments.

Photos: Kurihara Osamu, AFLO, PIXTA, shutterstock

Ueno is located on the JR Yamanote Line, just a 10-minute train ride from Tokyo Station. It is home to one of Japan’s most famous and busy shopping areas, Ameyoko, which is a neighbor to Ueno Park, a cultural and artistic hub. These two very different, yet inseparable faces of Ueno have been the essence of its irresistible magnetism—both in the past and still today.

Ameyoko started as an open-air market in the aftermath of World War II. Today, it is lined with stores that sell all sorts of products, such as fresh foods, daily commodities, clothes, and accessories, and it also has restaurants. There are approximately 400 stores in the central part of Ameyoko, and some 1,200 stores in the whole area.

The most interesting way to explore Ameyoko is to follow your curiosity. The main street of the market is lined with venerable old stores, such as Niki no Kashi, which sells more than 8,000 varieties of Japanese and imported sweets, and Iseoto, a shop known for its top quality katsuobushi, the dried smoked bonito slices that are an indispensable ingredient of basic Japanese soup stock. Nearby is Yoshiike, a fresh foods store that is a favorite destination for professional chefs and foodies. Visitors enjoy the lively and energetic atmosphere filled with the cries of sellers of goals and foods.

The alley under the elevated tracks off the main street is crammed with shops that sell cosmetics, sneakers, watches, and stationery. It is also home of some well-hidden popular stores such as the leather brand MANSOH, known for its bags and leather accessories. Exploring these stores with the trains roaring overhead is an exciting experience.

Iseoto is a venerable old store for dried goods established in the 1860s. The storefront boasts a variety of products, such as katsuobushi (dried smoked bonito flakes), an indispensable ingredient in Japanese cuisine.

Niki no Kashi offers more than 8,000 varieties of sweets and snacks at all times.

The human flow on Ameyoko never abates, inundated with the energetic cries of merchants from the shops along the street.

Yoshiike is a fresh food store just off Ameyoko that boasts the largest selection in the area.

Fresh-cut fruit on sale.

MANSOH lures customers with a selection of high-quality leather goods.