Ueno is one of my favourite area of Tokyo. When you walk around Ueno, you could see, and feel, the layers of the time gone by in Tokyo. In Ameyoko, where you can find a market of fresh food and world-class denim and workwear, it felt like time was frozen in the 80s. At the same time, the train station’s exterior remains relatively unchanged since 1932. And, on the main road, parallel the raised railway tracks, you can find your modern architectures so ubiquitous in urban Tokyo.
Unlucky for me, it rained the first two times I went to Ueno. In fact, in Spring 2013, it was the only rainy day of the whole trip.
The entrance to Ameyoko (アメ横) is just opposite the south exit of Ueno Station. Ameyoko is a denim and workwear mecca. Get a pair of Made in Japan denim jeans by cult brands such as Sugar Cane, Big John, Momotaro, Pure Japan Blue, etc, from Americaya or Hinoya while you are there. You must. It is really not an option.
Tip: Get your Indigo sweetness altered in the shop where they use traditional chain stitching sewing machines. May take a few hours, so plan your time ahead.
Took me awhile to find this sushi restaurant (寿司幸) on Google Map. I had lunch there on two separate occasions while I was in Ueno. I loved it for the homey feel. And, although I have read about it, I learned the art of eating sushi by observing one ojiisan patron and practised by gobbling up my maguro sushi.
Ueno Park is a great place to take part in hanami during Spring. If you did not have all the sushi earlier, there are some tantalising street food all around the park. People are extremely friendly during the cherry blossom. I had several (albeit broken) conversations while I was there, including with the two old men who sold me some hot grub on a cold rainy day. Despite the rain, Ueno Park was still very pretty during the cherry blossom.
I went back in November last year and Ueno was equally beautiful in Autumn. Best of all, it did not rain at all.
The Park Side Cafe is situated in the middle of the Ueno Park. The ambience of the cafe was really good, and look at the food; Incredibly Instagramable… and delicious, of course. Highly recommended only if you have time to chill, and take it all in.
Ueno in the evening was pretty busy. People young and old, working class and tourists alike crowded out the place. Although that is true for the most part of the Tokyo, Ueno seemed most casual and relaxed to me.
Finally, Ippudo was just around the corner from Ameyoko. The Ippudo in Singapore, despite all the hype, and the queue, isn’t any better than Nantsuttei at Millenia Walk and definitely not as good as Keisuke Tonkotsu King at Orchid Hotel. And in Japan, I have to say it wasn’t better than most of the other ramen I have tried. That is to say; You don’t have to come all the way to Ippudo just to get great ramen, there are plenty of other shops around Tokyo for you to create the next hype.
Without a doubt, Ueno will always be on my itinerary when I plan my future visits to Tokyo. Firstly for Ameyoko’s Americaya and Hinoya, where you can find the best Made in Japan denim and workwear in the world, and at a great price too. And, secondly, for the retro Tokyo atmosphere. Can’t wait until the next time.