Yanaka district, Tokyo
Another itinery which can easily occupy a whole day is a trip to Ueno Park and the nearby old Tokyo areas of Yanaka, Nippori and Nezu.
To reach Ueno Park take the train to Ueno Station.
Ueno Park contains Ueno Zoo which I have never visited, but I do know it has pandas. It also has Tosho-gu Shrine which is a life-sized replica of the main temple shrine of Nikko. On our first visit there a Noh play was being staged in the grounds. Free-entry and worth a look.
The park also contains several water-lily covered ponds - Shinobazu Ponds and this area has a small temple to the goddess Benten - goddess of good fortune.
At the top of the hill not far from the Ueno Station entrance to the park there is a statue of a mighty samurai warrior taking his little dog for a walk.
Near Ueno Station before you enter the park you will also find a wonderful street market selling everything and anything, including lots of colourful food stalls.
There are several museums including the Tokyo National Museum in this area.
If you exit the far end of the park, near the Tokyo National Museum, you can walk to the Yanaka, Nippori district. This area is the one of the few areas of Tokyo which survived the bombings of World War II. Wander aimlessly down winding lanes with traditional wooden houses and beautiful little temples set in idyllic Japanese Gardens. Or take a stroll through Yanaka Cemetery.
Nearby Nezu has a beautiful 300 year old shrine with a fantastic azalea gardens and pathways lined with bright red tori. The azaleas are at their peak around April/May
Yanaka Cemetary is most famous as the grave of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last shogun of Japan who was forced to resign and give up power to the Imperial Court. The Tokugawa graves are gated so that no one can vandalize them but you can still see them from the gates.
The graves of many other famous people can be found around the cemetary, as well, including Saint Nicholai who introduced the Orthodox faith to Japan and Tanaka Yoshio, founder of the Tokyo National Museum, Science Museum, and Ueno Zoo as well as other museums.
To find specific graves or simply make navigation easier, there is an information center on Sakura-dori Street where you can get maps in English and Japanese. The Japanese map has the names of famous people who are buried here written on the back along with their numbers but the English map has the numbers on the map without the names, so it's best to get both (or just the Japanese map) if there is a famous person you are looking for.
As one would expect, visiting is free.
To find a relief from the fast paced life of Tokyo, make a diversion to low-key, low-rise Yanaka. It seems a world away from the skyscrapers and crowded streets of Shinjuku, Shibuya and other parts of Tokyo. Here you will find quiet temples and shrines, a large cemetery with a beautiful, park-like setting, and small shops for local goods and handicrafts.
Yanaka cemetery is large and picturesque, a popular place to take a walk amongst cherry trees. Many prominent citizens are buried here, such as the last Tokugawa shogun, Yoshinobu, who surrendered power to the emperor in 1868.
Yanaka Ginza is the area's main shopping street, a pedestrian zone with a good number of traditional businesses where you can find things like basketware, pottery and handbags. There are a few interesting little restaurants along the way also.
When you walk in Yanaka you will come across more shrines and temples than you will probably have time to see. Of interest is Tenno-ji temple, which was founded 500 years ago and has a large bronze Buddha that is over 300 years old.