explore yanesen

Ueno Sakuragi Atari – Tokyo how it was in 1938

Ueno Sakuragi Atari is a collection of shops and community rooms, housed in 3 buildings from 1938, bringing the Old Tokyo feel to life. It is located in the Ueno Sakuragi area, just south of Yanaka Cemetery and north of Ueno park.

It is nice to see all the initiatives in Tokyo to protect and renovate older buildings. In the Yanaka neighbourhood, we have SCAI The Bath House opening in 1993, Hagiso in 2013 and this Ueno Sakuragi Atari building complex in 2015, which consists of three houses built in 1938. They have been renovated into shops and community spaces that can be used for events.

Ueno Sakuragi Atari is a related project from the people that brought Kayaba coffee back to life in 2009. The Taito Cultural and Historical Society NPO and others, in cooperation with the Tsukakoshi family (the original owners), have restored these houses in their former glory for you to explore. At one time in 2012, they were considering to turn this area into a parking lot. Lucky for us that didn’t happen.

These buildings are a perfect example of the building style in the 1930s, with Japanese shikkui plaster walls (ecological nontoxic Japanese lime plaster) and with both Western and Japanese style rooms. Two of the buildings were specifically designed to offer panoramic views over the interior (formerly private) garden. You can read up on the detailed history of the place on their English website.

What makes this place special is that you can experience some traditional buildings that are actively being used, out in the open, for the community and the visitor to use. There are many old houses all over Japan that are turned into museums. In contrast, this place is alive, and I hope it will be for a long time. When posting this article, Ueno Sakuragi Atari was featured on the cover of the monthly Tokyo Metro magazine, that had a feature on the Yanesen area. This shows there is interest in places like this in Japan, and also shows that you can take some very nice pictures on this property!

Things to visit at Ueno Sakuragi Atari

  • Locally brewed beer at Yanaka Beer hall: they have a special dark and light pils beer, they also serve some simple food (dishes prepared in an earthenware pot) and have also a Japanese bbq course (only on weekdays). At lunch time there is a simple lunch (curry, pasta). Please note there is a specific ordering style at this place at night, you first need to by tickets (JPY 900, 1200 or 3000) that you can then exchange for food/drinks.
  • Unique clothes at “But I’m only 5 hours Yusuke”: all kinds of hipster clothes.
  • Japanese bread at Kayaba Bakery: this is a sister shop from Kayaba coffee. You can find here buns with anko, green tea, sesame and more. (update: CLOSED from May 2018)
  • Salt & olive at OshiOlive: does not completely fit with the other shops and the location. Not so interesting from a foreign visitors’ point of view (most products come from Europe), but seems to be ok for the mainly Japanese tourist that come to this place.

Apart from these shops, there are a couple of community spaces available for rent, namely Your Zashiki (minna no zashiki, originally a tea ceremony room) and Your Roji (minna no roji, this is actually the walkway that connects the 3 buildings). Conditions apply if you want to reserve them and all application forms are only available in Japanese.

On a crowded Sunday afternoon.

This article was update in May 2018.

In practice

2-15-6 Ueno Sakuragi, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0002

Closest station:
Nippori Station – 10 minutes walk (Yamanote line, Joban Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, Keisei main line and Nippori-Toneri Liner).
Nezu or Sendagi Station – 10 minutes walk (Chiyoda line)
Ueno station (main station) – 10 minutes walk from Park exit (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line and Hibiya Line, Utsunomiya Line, Takasaki Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, Yamanote Line, Joban Line and various Shinkansen lines)

Opening hours: Most shops are open between 12:00 and 19:00. Closed on Monday.
Yanaka Beer Hall: 12:00-20:30 (TueーFri) 11:00-20:30 (Sat, Sun, Holidays). Closed: Monday.
But I’m only 5 hours Yusuke: Open 12:00~20:00. Closed: Monday, Occasional holidays
Kayaba Bakery: Closed permanently from May 2018
OshiOlive: Open 11:00~19:00. Closed: Monday

Web: http://uenosakuragiatari.jp/toppage_en

When to best visit? All year round is fine

Why visit? Experience a couple of traditional Japanese buildings that are still actively being used (not a museum!), revisiting the pre-war Tokyo atmosphere. And there is beer too.

Places to visit or things to do in the area? Right in the Yanesen area, very close to Yanaka Cemetery and Kayaba coffee.

Japanese name: 上野桜木あたり