When people ask me where they should go while in Tokyo, Ueno always makes it into my top three recommendations. Not only is it one of the most popular locations for cherry blossom viewing (or “hanami”) in early April but it also has some famous temples, shrines and pagodas, a zoo and several science and art museums (Tokyo National Museum being my favourite) all literally within a minute’s walk of each other.
It’s also a great place for doing some modern shopping in the complexes near the station as well as some more traditional Japanese shopping at the waterside markets in the centre of the park. Ueno really does have what most travellers are after during a trip to Tokyo however, something it hasn’t had, at least until now that is, has been a good place to relax and enjoy Ueno from a more passive, relaxed perspective.
Built in late 2012, Park Side Cafe is part of a conscious effort to modernise Ueno Park and make it a more attractive location for people to visit and enjoy downtime in. It really is the exception to the typical Tokyo cafe and is hopefully a sign of things to come in future development projects and businesses in Japan.
Park Side Cafe features a wonderfully fresh design with a heavy emphasis on natural materials used and a look that actually complements it’s green surroundings and creates both a relaxing and modern feel at the same time. I was very impressed with how much effort was put into making customers feel genuinely comfortable. Smoking is not only banned inside but also on the outside seating area which means you can enjoy your drink and meal no matter where you sit.
Speaking of meal, the selection of food not only impressed me but actually surprised me with it’s selection and overall quality. There’s a great selection of pastas, pizzas and salads to choose from as well as some mouth watering cakes all presented with great care and deliberation.
The drink menu is where it’s really at though with a huge selection of fresh herbal teas that are served in large glass teapots ensuring that you get your money’s worth. I’ve ordered each of the herbal teas on separate occasions and highly recommend them. They also have the typical hot and iced teas and coffees, though if you drop by later in the afternoon you should definitely try something from the alcohol menu which has a great selection of beers, wines and cocktails from both Japan and abroad.
There are both English and Japanese menus available and several of the staff had no problem taking orders in English. An average lunch / dinner meal with a drink should set you back between 1000 – 1500 yen and a cake and drink set sold for a little less though it’s worth mentioning that several of the cake set combinations actually give you two cakes per set so if you’re on a budget you can definitely split one set between you.
Park Side Cafe has quickly become one of my favourite cafes in Tokyo since it opened. The atmosphere is fantastic, the food and drink of very good quality and the staff genuinely friendly and professional. I really can’t recommend it enough.
Train Line: Ginza, Hibiya, Joban, Keihin Tohoku, Yakasaki, Utsunomiya, Yamanote Lines and several Shinkansen (Bullet Trains).
Features: 100% smoke free / no smoking, terrace seating
Menu Language: English and Japanese
Taito Ku, Ueno Park 8-4
Phone Number: 03 5815 8251
Map: View on GoogleMaps
Directions: Once you arrive at the massive Ueno Station, take the Park Exit and cross the road to Ueno Park which is immediately opposite the train station.
Walk straight ahead into the park and walk past two roads on your right. Once you pass these and come to a rather wide road, turn right and walk along this road for a minute or two (and make sure to enjoy the massive cherry blossom trees which should be in full bloom if you happen to come during early April). You should come to a large open space with water fountains in the middle and a Starbucks on the left. Park Side Cafe is on the right.