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Ueno is one of the most popular areas in all of Tokyo. This time, we will introduce three interactive tours that will let you learn all about the art and history of this fascinating area. Join one or all of these tours to get a chance to learn about a side of Ueno not possible with regular sightseeing!

1. Ueno Art Walk - A History and World Heritage Site Tour Utilizing VR

On this tour, participants can learn about the history of Ueno in an easy-to-understand way by utilizing the latest virtual reality (VR) technology, followed by a tour around present-day Ueno. At the site of Kuromon, you can see images of the fierce battles of the Ueno War (1868) recreated through VR at the very spot where they were fought. After that, the tour moves on to other spots related to the Ueno War, allowing one to experience the differences between old and present-day Ueno. Finally, the tour visits a World Heritage site and important cultural assets within Ueno Park, so participants can further immerse themselves in the history of the area. You will also get to enjoy some art, as an art museum is in the tour itinerary as well.

Kuromon (Ruins)

A wall fountain near the entry point to a row of cherry trees displays the name of the former main gate - known as “Kuromon” (the Black Gate) - of Kanei-ji Temple, which was constructed in 1625 and was considered the greatest temple in Japan in terms of size and design during the Edo period (1603 - 1868). It was around here that the most intense fighting of the Ueno War at the end of the Edo period took place. Though the gate itself has since been relocated to Entsu-ji Temple in Arakawa Ward, the ruins still communicate a part of the history to the people of today.

The Statue of Saigo Takamori

This is a statue erected for the purpose of honoring Saigo Takamori (1828 - 1877), a Japanese samurai who was both a military man and a politician. It is a work by Takamura Koun, an iconic sculptor from the Meiji era (1868 - 1912), and Okazaki Sessei, who was in charge of the statue’s casting.
Many people gather even today by the statue, which is now a well-known Ueno meeting spot. In the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, families and lovers who had gotten separated communicated by sticking slips of paper - intended for people waiting to hear from loved ones and people inquiring about loved ones - on the statue.

Kiyomizu Kannon-do

Kiyomizu Kannon-do, designated as an Important National Cultural Asset, is built in a stage style and was modeled after Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a famous sightseeing spot in Kyoto. It was erected in the year 1631 by Tenkai Sojo, a high Buddhist priest. Its principal item of worship is the Senju Kannon (Thousand-armed Kannon) statue, which was created by the Buddhist priest Eshin Sozu in the Heian era (794 - 1192), and brought to Kiyomizu Kannon-do from Kiyomizu-dera Temple. It is worshiped as a hidden Buddhist statue.
From the stage at the main entrance to the hall, you can see the “The Moon Pine” drawn by the Edo-era ukiyo-e (woodblock print) artist Utagawa Hiroshige. The view of the scenery from the stage is also stunning. Kiyomizu Kannon-do is also famous for its puppet memorial services, as well as for answering the prayers of women wishing to conceive, for healthy childbirth, and for the raising of children.

In addition to Kiyomizu Kannon-do, the grounds of Kanei-ji Temple are full of several other interesting sights to see, such as the Kyu Kanei-ji Five-Storied Pagoda, making this a popular place with tourists.

The National Museum of Western Art

The National Museum of Western Art exhibits works of Western art, centered on the Matsukata Collection - consisting of works collected by the businessman Kojiro Matsukata (1866 - 1950) - which was returned by the French government to Japan. Here, visitors can get an overview of the history of Western art through Impressionist paintings and Rodin sculptures, spanning from the Renaissance until the early 20th century.
In July 2016, the museum building was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site for being a part of “The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement.”

(C) The National Museum of Western Art (reproduction prohibited)

Name:The National Museum of Western Art
Address:7-7 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours:9:30 am - 5:30 pm
Friday and Saturday: 9:30 am - 8:00 pm
*Last entry: 30 minutes before closing
*There may be times when they have extended hours. Check the official homepage for details.
Closed:Monday (closed on the following day instead if Monday is a national holiday), Beginning and end of the year
Official Homepage:http://www.nmwa.go.jp/jp/
http://www.nmwa.go.jp/en/(English)

Ueno Toshogu Shrine

Ueno Toshogu Shrine is a shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu (a general who founded the Edo era, which lasted for around 260 years) and, like Kiyomizu Kannon-do, was established by Tenkai Sojo. Miraculously, it was able to survive the Ueno War, the Great Kanto Earthquake, and World War II. Nowadays, many people visit it all throughout the year: in springtime, it is a popular spot for both peony and cherry blossom viewing; in autumn, the fall colors bring many visitors; and New Year's is crowded with people coming for hatsumode (the first shrine visit of the New Year) and winter peony viewing.
The gold-colored Shaden (shrine pavilion) and Karamon (pictured) are designated as Important Cultural Assets; they are ornately decorated with gorgeous carved sculptures which are comprehensive examples of techniques from the Azuchi-Momoyama era (1573 - 1603). Legend has it that the two dragons carved on the gate pillars that stand on both sides of the Karamon Gate, carved by the Edo master sculptor Hidari Jingoro, come down from the mountain to drink the water in Shinobazu Pond at night.

1. Ueno Art Walk - A History and World Heritage Site Tour Utilizing VR
*Due to popular demand, this tour is now closed to reservations.

2. Ueno Art Walk - Ueno no Mori Cycling Tour

This tour consists of cycling around Ueno Park before moving on to the Yanaka district, allowing you to enjoy a wider area of Ueno.
The tour is organized in conjunction with the tokyobike bicycle shop in Yanaka, which is also popular with foreign travelers visiting the district. The tour starts from the tokyobike shop, which is situated inside a quaint-looking 300-year-old liquor store. After cycling around seeing the historical buildings in Ueno Park on a tokyobike bicycle, tour participants visit the Yanaka area where manufacturing and art are abundant. In this way, travelers can enjoy the city, landscapes, and more, just like local inhabitants do.

Yanaka

Yanaka is an area of Tokyo, located to the northwest of Ueno Park, that still retains the old atmosphere of the city even to this day. Yanaka Cemetery, which is the resting place of many prominent figures in history, is famous for being a place to view cherry blossoms.
Many artists have lived in this area since long ago, and even now there are many art galleries showcasing a variety of works from modern art to traditional crafts. Nowadays, there are more and more eateries and inns opening up in renovated kominka (old Japanese-style houses) in this area.

Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Gardens

The Kyu-Iwasaki-tei (former Iwasaki family mansion) Gardens were built as part of the main residence of Iwasaki Hisaya, the eldest son of Iwasaki Yataro, the founder of the Mitsubishi zaibatsu (industrial conglomerate), one of the biggest in Japan.
The whole complex is designated as an Important Cultural Asset of Japan, and consists of three buildings: the Western-style residence, the Japanese-style residence, and the dokyu-shitsu (billiards facility). The Western-style building and the billiards facility were designed by the architect Josiah Conder, who also designed the Rokumeikan (building constructed by the Meiji government to host foreign guests). The expansive gardens that partly adhere to the style of an Edo-era daimyo garden (garden of a feudal lord) combine Japanese and Western styles, as well as an architectural style demonstrating an example of early modern gardens with elements such as a grass lawn.

2. Ueno Art Walk - Ueno no Mori Cycling Tour
*Due to popular demand, this tour is now closed to reservations.

3. Ueno Art Walk - Indulge in the Tokyo National Museum and Cherry Blossoms

This is an appealing art walk tour during which you can enjoy locations themed around sakura (cherry blossoms, one of Ueno's great attractions) and also try different foods.
After viewing "Merrymaking Under the Cherry Blossoms" - a pair of six-fold screens that are designated National Treasures and available for viewing for a limited time in the Tokyo National Museum - you can enjoy walking under the cherry blossoms actually blooming in Ueno Park. At the end of this tour themed around Ueno's "sakura" and “food”, participants can experience Japanese cuisine and sweets, thanks to a collaboration between local shops and community spaces.

Tokyo National Museum (Tohaku)

The Tokyo National Museum (nicknamed "Tohaku,” as a shortening of the Japanese name "Tokyo Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan") was established in 1872, making it the oldest museum in Japan. Since then, it has carried out the collection, preservation, and exhibition of a wide range of artwork and historical materials - ranging from Buddhist statues and paintings to pottery, swords, archaeological materials, and more.
In the National Treasures room on the 2nd floor of the main building, paintings and books designated as National Treasures are exhibited for approximately one month at a time. Every spring and autumn, the building's garden is opened to the public, which allows people to enjoy the seasonal scenery there.

Cherry Blossoms at Ueno Park

Approximately 1,200 cherry trees of over 50 varieties are planted in Ueno Park. The park’s central pathway is lined with cherry trees from Hakamagoshi Square to Takenodai Square & Fountain, attracting many cherry blossom viewers every year.
There are numerous cherry trees in the park which relate to historical episodes, such as Shushiki-zakura, a weeping cherry tree in front of Kiyomizu Kannon-do, and the Mikuruma-gaeshi no Sakura, a cherry tree located near Kanei-ji Temple's Kaizan-do Hall. With the blooming of its blossoms, the Somei-yoshino tree near the Ueno Great Buddha lets Tokyo residents know when spring has come.

Savor Japanese Cuisine and Traditional Japanese Sweets (Kurofunetei)

Ueno is home to many famous and long-established shops that offer wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) and washoku (Japanese cuisine), which has been registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. On top of eating Japanese food, this tour includes an activity where participants get to make some dorayaki (red bean paste sandwiched between sweet pancakes) with the famous shop Usagiya. The location of this activity is Kurofunetei, an established yoshoku (Western-inspired Japanese cuisine) restaurant that has been preserving traditional flavors since its establishment in 1902. It is famous for its luxurious and smooth demi glace sauce, which is made from carefully selected premium ingredients and takes over a week to prepare.

*During some tours, the activity component will take place at KLASS instead. Check the application page for more details.

3. Ueno Art Walk - Indulge in the Tokyo National Museum and Cherry Blossoms
*Due to popular demand, this tour is now closed to reservations.

Ueno is a very popular sightseeing area, but there are still many fascinating aspects about it that many people don't know about. With these tours, you can get an in-depth introduction to all the charms of this area!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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