Cherry Blossom season is the best time to visit Ueno Park. Try the street food at Shinobazu Pond while you are there.
Cherry Blossoms At Ueno Park

Ueno Park is well-known for its rows of cherry blossom trees which turn the entire park into a canopy of white and pink petals during the Sakura season. I visited Ueno park in peak cherry blossom season and truly it’s one of the most beautiful scenes to behold despite the crowd.

Sakura-Hanami, a tradition of having a picnic under the cherry blossom tree, was in full swing. Rows and rows of blue colored tarp were spread under the cherry blossoms and people were having a merry time sipping Sake and consuming delicious food with their family. One look at all the food on display and my stomach rumbled. There are a few food stalls in the park, but the long lines discouraged me from joining them. I promised myself I would stand in line after the boat ride on the Shinobazu Pond at the other end of the park.

Street Food Stalls At Shinobazu Pond near Ueno Park

What I didn’t know was beside the pond, there was a street food heaven waiting for me. This was truly unexpected and a pleasant surprise to my hungry stomach. I wasted no time in exploring the delicious food in yellow colored stalls.

If you visit Ueno Park, here is some of the Japanese street food you should try:


Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake/crêpe. The pancake flour is cooked on a griddle and topped with cabbage, veggies, pork belly, bacon or other toppings just like a pizza. The toppings differ across the different regions in Japan. Usually, the pancake is topped off by a sunny-side up egg. This is one of Japan’s famous street food.

Dango – Sticky Rice Cake/Balls

Dango is a sweet sticky rice dessert made from a special rice flour called mochiko. Here, three types of Dangos are being sold – the original (plain sweet dumplings with no additional flavor), a green-tea flavored rice ball (called Chadango ) and a cherry flavored Dango. Typically, 3 to 5 dumplings are loaded on a single-stick.

Deep Fried Seafood

Japanese Street Food - Deep Fried Squid and  Octopus At Ueno Park
Deep Fried Squid and Octopus

One thing you have to try in Japan is obviously the seafood. This was the first time I tried fried octopus. Initially, I felt weird eating the octopus. Especially, I didn’t like to see the suckers on the arms/legs up close before eating it. I was very reluctant to feel the texture of the suckers against my tongue. However, once I got over the texture issue, It was actually not that bad. It had a strong sea flavour which I am not a huge fan but the soy sauce on top it reduces that a bit.

Chocolate Covered Banana With Sprinkles

Fried Banana With Chocolate and Sprinkles
Fried Banana With Chocolate and Sprinkles

I have a sweet tooth. Naturally, I ran straight to a stall selling bananas covered in chocolate and sprinkles when I spotted it. I was so excited when I got it, that I balanced a coke can, which I had previously opened, on a slightly unsteady ledge on a bridge nearby. Lo and behold! I committed my worst faux pas in Japan… the coke can fell from the ledge, spilling juice on the ground. Yikes! Several people around me audibly gasped. I didn’t dare meet anyone’s eye. I quickly picked up the can and escaped with my chocolate covered banana.

Pork and Chicken Skewers

These pork and chicken skewers were delicious and very cheap at 200 Yen( approx. $2). I had one of each. On a side note, don’t you think this video is kind of hypnotizing? I could watch that man turn over the skewers for hours!


Noodles at Ueno Park Tokyo

One of my favorite food of all time is Noodles and I had a variety of it in Japan. I, especially, love the noodles fried on a griddle oozing with soy and oyster sauce. They are so yummy.

Crab Skewers

Street Food in Ueno Park Tokyo - Crab Skewers
Street Food in Ueno Park Tokyo – Crab Skewers

Can you believe how huge those crabs are! I think they may be artificial and not real crab shells. Stores in Japan usually use plastic food samples on their storefronts. May be this is one of those.

Corn On A Cob

Street Food in Ueno Park, Tokyo- Corn On A Cob
Corn On A Cob

Ueno Park Street Food - Hot Dog On A Stick
Hot Dog On A Stick

There are also standard American street food favorites such as hotdog on a stick and corn on the cob if you don’t feel like trying new Japanese street food. The corn on the cob is also an excellent vegetarian option.

Unknown yet delicious looking food

One thing that was difficult for me was that most stalls didn’t have the name of the food in English. So half the time I didn’t recognize some unfamiliar foods. I wish I knew how to read Japanese or it would have been nice to have a Japanese local to help me out. Also, the food stall owners knew limited English, so they were no help either.

Some stalls like chicken/pork stalls had picture of a chicken and pig beside the Japanese lettering so I knew immediately what they were. I am not at all saying that people in every country should use English. However, using pictures to show what the food was, was immensely helpful. If I visit Japan again, I am planning to learn some basic Japanese sentences like What food is this? , Is this Chicken or Pork? and names of the different foods. I suggest everyone visiting Japan do the same, especially if they have some diet restrictions.

Roast Potato or Dough Balls?
Roast Potato or Dough Balls?

These white balls heaped on the frying pan look like small fried potatoes with some seasoning. They may also have been dough balls but less likely.

Ueno Park Tokyo Street Food - Tofu Fry
Tofu Fry?

I assume that this is Tofu Fry. If it is, it’s a another option for vegetarians. I am not a big fan of Tofu so I skipped that.

What do you think of these Japanese street food? Which one would you try if you visited Ueno Park, Tokyo? Let me know in the comments.

I will leave you with one last video of Okonomiyaki to tempt you..

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Ueno Park - Japanese Street Food
Ueno Park – Japanese Street Food

Tokyo to Kumano Kodo : A day trip from Tokyo or Osaka
Sanjudo Pagoda at Kumano Nachi Taisha
Brief Summary of the Route:

Tokyo to Kumano Kodo

Take the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya. Then, take JR Limited Nanki Express from Nagoya to Kii-Katsuura. Click here for a more details.

Osaka to Kumano Kodo

Take JR Kuroshio from Shin-Osaka or Tennoji Station to Kii-Kaatsura. click here for more details.

Where is Kumano Kodo?

Kumano, in the southern part of Kii peninsula, is an ancient sacred area known for the three grand shrines: Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha. The shrines are collectively known as Kumano Sanzan.

The Seven hiking trails that connect these three shrines are collectively known as known as Kumano Kodo. In the olden days, people went on a pilgrimage through these demanding trails to visit the shrines and attain spiritual enlightenment.

Day trip From Tokyo to Kumano Nachi Taisha and Nachi Falls

A hike through the Kumano Kodo is definitely the best way to experience this spiritual journey. However if, like me, you don’t have the luxury of time, you can do a day trip to Kumano Nachi Taisha from Tokyo.

A day trip from Tokyo to Kumano Nachi Taisha is travel intensive. You have to change several buses and trains and the one-way journey can take up to 6 hours.

This means that you will have only an hour or two to enjoy the incredible views. If time permits, I would recommend staying there at least a night or two to take in the beauty of the place.

A day trip to Kumano Nachi Taisha and Nachi Falls from Tokyo is possible mainly due to the super fast and efficient Shinkansen (bullet trains) that cover 7 to 8 hour journeys in a matter of 2 to 3 hours. Plan this itinerary carefully as the schedule is absolutely packed and a slight miscalculation may cause you to miss a train/bus. You also have to leave very early in the morning to spend more time at Nachisan.

Tokyo to Kumano Nachi Taisha

  1. Tokyo -> Nagoya

    Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya from either Tokyo station or Shinagawa station. It’s better to board the Shinkansen from Shinagawa as the station is not as crowded and confusing as Tokyo station.

    Depending on the Shinkansen you choose – Nozomi, Hikari or Kodama, it can take from 1hr 40min (Nozomi), 1hr 50min(Hikari) to 3hrs(Kodama) from Tokyo to Nagoya. For the day trip, avoid Kodama as it takes longer to travel from Tokyo to Nagoya. If you are a JR Rail Pass holder, choose Hikari as it’s fast and the cost of the journey is covered by the pass.

  2. Nagoya -> Kii-Katsuura

    From Nagoya, take the JR Nanki Limited Express, also known as Wide-view Nanki, to Kii-Katsuura . To cut the wait time in Nagoya, plan and reserve your seats on the Wide-view Nanki in advance. The staff at the JR ticket office will help you pick the train time more effectively.

    If you are a JR Rail Pass holder, most of the trip is covered. I say most because a part of the track from Kawarada to Tsu is not owned by JR. Hence, you have to pay an extra charge of 820 Yen to the ticket collector on board the Wide-view Nanki.

    This journey takes upto 4hrs. It’s a bit exhausting. However, the scenery through the large windows of the Wide-View Nanki make up for it.

  3. Kii-Katsuura -> Kumano Nachi Taisha

    From Kii- Katsuura station, board a local bus that makes stops at Nachi Station, Daimon Zaka, Nachi-no-Taki-mae (Nachi Waterfalls) and Nachi San.

    The local bus stops right outside the station. The time-table for this bus can be found here: Kii Katsuura Bus Time-Table . Alternatively, if you are running out of time and can afford a taxi, you can hire a taxi outside the train station to take you around the sites.

The total travel time one-way from Tokyo to Kii-Katsuura is around 5 hrs 50 minutes. Remember, the JR Nanki Limited Express is not as frequent as the Shinkansen. Confirm the last train from Kii-Katsuura back to Nagoya to avoid being stuck there. In my case, the last train from Kii-Katsuura to Nagoya was at 5:11 pm. Consult JR Ticket Office or HyperDia to plan your travel.

Osaka to Kumano Kodo (Kumano Nachi Taisha)

If you are starting from Osaka and not from Tokyo, then follow the route below:

Shin-Osaka to Kii-Katsuura Station

Take the JR Kuroshio from Shin-Osaka or Tennoji Station to Kii-Kaatsura. Travel Time is approximately 4 hrs. From Kii-Katsuura to Kumano Nachi Taisha, follow the instructions given above.

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Kumano Kodo : Kumano Nachi Taisha. Directions of how to get from Tokyo to Kumano Nachi Taisha in a day.
Nachi Falls and Kumano Nachi Taisha – A Travel Guide