Situated in the heart of Tokyo, Ueno Park is a serene public space in the grounds of the old Kaneiji Temple. It's an idyllic place to escape the chaotic Tokyo streets and one of the city's cultural hubs, filled with temples and museums.
Every spring the park transforms, the cherry blossom season creating canopies of delightful colour. From a distance they look like mystical clouds hanging over the park. More than 1000 cherry trees line the park's central path, making this the most famous place in Tokyo to see the spectacle.
Kaneiji Temple was one of the largest in Tokyo but was mostly destroyed in the 17th century. 200 years later the grounds were converted to a public park. Historic remains continue to showcase the former grandeur, like Toshogu Srhine, Kiyomizu Jannon Temple, and the Bentenda temple hall, found on an island in Shinobazu Pond.
It would take at least two days to explore all the museums located in Ueno Park. The variety makes this an excellent destination for those with limited time in Tokyo. Tokyo National Museum and the National Science Museum are the most popular, while Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the National Museum for Western Art have very contrasting galleries. Ueno Zoo isn't filled with animals in cages. It's Japan's first zoological garden; visitors can walk around or use the Ueno Zoo monorail through the trees.
Witnessing the cherry blossom is such a big part of Japanese culture that it has its own word. Historically, viewing the cherry blossom is known as hanami, loosely translated as flower viewing. Hanami parties fill Ueno Park in spring, with their leaders putting down plastic sheets and guarding them until everyone else finishes work and arrives for an evening picnic.