Who started this trend? When was it decided that there would be a single location that would have a large park and several museums all together? San Francisco has Golden Gate Park, Chicago has Grant Park, Cleveland has University Circle, and Tokyo has Ueno Park. I guess it's a matter of convenience - set aside a large parcel of land for general public culture use, and build some museums as needed.
because it had multiple languages.
Ueno Park's grounds and temples can take up a good part of a visitor's day. Adding on the museums, it's easy to spend two or three days in the park itself, without heading down to the shopping arcade.
Ueno's other attractions include:
- Shitamachi Museum, a fun small late-Meiji to early-Showa period history museum
- National Museum of Western Art
- Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, which just reopened in April
- National Science Museum, with a mix of old-style "hands-off" exhibits and newer "hands-on" areas
- Tokyo National Museum, a five-building complex of national treasures and important cultural items
- Ueno Zoo, the home of a couple pandas and some other animals
Note that Ueno Park essentially shuts down on Mondays, along with pretty much all the other cultural activities in Japan. Fair-weather Sundays bring crowds of tourists and locals looking for some nature and sightseeing, and it's best to find somewhere else to be that day as well. My Sunday visit on a cold February was met with plenty of people in the museums and a decent number of people on the paths. My return in April (again, on a Sunday) saw even larger crowds.
Ueno Park is easy to find. Just head to Ueno Station and follow the signs. The station is quite large with several exits, but by following the signs you can't miss it! Admission to the park is free, and entrance to the temples is also free. However, the attractions above can have admission fees. Food options in the park are generally limited to food stalls and small restaurants around Benten-do, though there are other eating options in the attractions and plenty of choices outside of the park.