Shadowy Ueno?

Tokyo’s Ueno district may well be home to some of the city’s most important museums, but it’s also where many of the poorest call home too. The area’s park in particular shelters an increasingly obvious number of the capital’s growing homeless population, creating an odd environment where day-trippers and the destitute show utter indifference to one another.

Thrown into this unusual mix is also Ameyoko; a decidedly working class shopping district that in post-war Japan was a well-known black market — elements of which are really not hard to imagine even today.

old Ameyoko

And just like the wider area, it provides glimpses of both light and dark, old and new.

Ueno’s Ameyoko


  1. Marc says

    I visit this market every time in Tokyo. Many hidden treasures! And great for people watching too.

    • says

      Totally agree. It’s one of my favourite places. A thoroughly fascinating place to walk round. And yeah, so many characters to be seen.

  2. Willy says

    That’s a mad spot indeed. I bought dried squid there once. Brought it back to Australia thinking the customs would take it away. No problem. It was the Kewpie mayonnaise of which they were suspicious. Imported eggs…..
    But that is just a frivolous memory when compared to the plight of the homeless…All big cities have this problem. Its so Sad.

    • says

      It is. Don’t know why, but the homeless problem here somehow seems more shocking than it is in my native Britain. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up here. Or maybe it’s due to the relative prosperity. But either way, it somewhere seems worse, even though it isn’t.

  3. Iwao Yamamoto says

    You can not say that Ameyoko or Ueno area is such a place I think. Because for people having bred and raised in so called “shitamachi” Ameyoko or Ueno is the most loving place and must be treated with a warm hearted. Think about the period after the world war 2 or Pacific war (太平洋戦争), as you said, the place was not a clean and the place where there were not the poorest people, but in the place like that, there was a culture among people continuing from Edo period at the base of people living there or around the place. And Ueno still have been a memorable place for people coming to Tokyo to work when they graduated in junior high school as a group; 集団就職. For them Ueno was the starting place for their life which were hard for them so they were said to have remembered in such a time “Ueno”. As time passes by even Japanese might not know such a history.

    • says

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Ueno is an unfriendly place. Quite the opposite in fact. It’s one of my favourite places to visit. But the park is an odd place. The homeless, day trippers and locals all mingling, and yet at the same time not, make it very different from Ameyoko in many respects.

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