Last Saturday my friends and I visited one of my favorite areas in Tokyo, Ueno. Ueno is famous for being home to Ueno Zoo, but the Ueno Park and Ameyoko shopping street also can provide hours of things to do. In addition to being one of Tokyo’s most interesting districts, it is also a great example of what a city needs to be enjoyable.
Both Ueno Park and Ameyoko shopping street are full of life and offer a wide array of things to do. Walking around Ueno Park I watched several street performances ranging from singing and dancing to magic shows. While bouncing around the park from one street performance to another I saw Roman-style statues, a monument to Ulysses S. Grant from when he visited in 1879, and street vendors selling foods, sweets, and a random assortment of souvenirs. My favorite experience at the park was when I found a man walking two monkeys. I was able to ask him if I could hold a monkey in Japanese, and he very kindly permitted me to. Ueno Park, unlike many other areas of Tokyo, had plenty of room to sit and unwind. I believe that is a large reason why the park has become a hub for street performing and exciting street life.
In contrast to the spacious park is the overcrowded Ameyoko shopping street. Unlike Ueno Park, where it is easy to find a place to sit down and unwind, Ameyoko forces you to keep walking from one store to the next. There were so many interesting shops and restaurants to see and I would try to experience each place before being funneled into the next location. It can be a bit overwhelming for some, but it is a truly unique experience to Tokyo. Despite how different these locations can feel from each other they are both vibrant, fun locations. I believe there is a severe lack of vibrant cities in much of the US. In my experience living in and around Chicago Lincoln Park felt similar to Ueno Park in many ways, but the Ameyoko shopping street has no comparisons. The interaction between people and local business, I believe, is something that should be encouraged in cities in America. If there were more areas like Ameyoko shopping streets where the streets are catered to pedestrians instead of vehicles then we would be able to have a similar experience in creating more enjoyable American cities.