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Contemplating in Ueno Station


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Talk with Ueno Station
Talk with Akihito Asao

Published on November 1, 2012

Ueno Station still induces nostalgia and is a gateway to the northern part of Japan.


Ueno Station opened in 1883 at the dawn of the railroad age. It was the station on the railroad run by Nippon Railway, the first privately-funded railroad company in Japan, connecting Ueno and Kumagaya. In 1906, the station was purchased by the government of Japan under the Railway Nationalization Act, and developed as a gateway to Tohoku and Joetsu Regions. In 1987, Japanese National Railways was divided and privatized by an act of the Diet of Japan. As a result, the station became the present-day East Japan Railway Company (JR East) Ueno Station. At the present time, the station's main level is used by JR East's lines, and subterranean platforms are used by Tokyo Metro (Tokyo Chikatetsu) Ginza Line and Hibiya Line. The Ginza Line began operating in 1927, connecting Ueno and Asakusa. It is the first subway line in Asia. (7-chome Ueno, Taito City)

guide map

Inside of Ueno Station

The present-day Ueno Station is served by 11 lines of the Tohoku Shinkansen, Akita Shinkansen, Joetsu Shinkansen, Nagano Shinkansen, Yamagata Shinkansen, Joban Line, Joban/Narita Line, Utsunomiya Line, Takasaki Line, Yamanote Line and Keihin-Tohoku Line, and two lines of Tokyo Metro. Approximately 350,000 passengers get on and off at the station every day. It is truly a gateway to the northern part of Japan. The station has a history of 130 years from Meiji, Taisho, Showa to Heisei Periods, and is a place full of memories for people who came to Tokyo from Tohoku and Joetsu Regions and for people who left for Tohoku and Joetsu Regions.
 The Tohoku Shinkansen began service in 1982, connecting Omiya and Morioka, and its line was extended from Omiya to Ueno in 1985, and from Ueno to Tokyo in 1991. Later, the remodeling of the station building started in 2002, and shopping malls and galleries were built in the station. Also, the Panda Bridge, a connection bridge connecting the Main Exit and the Ueno Park Exit, was built, and customers who visit those facilities and passengers come and go through this bridge. (continued in the lower column)

When you go out of the Panda Bridge Exit on the third floor of the station, you can see the Tozai Jiyu Passage that connects the commercial area in front of the station and the cultural area around Ueno Park. (Commonly known as Panda Bridge)

A big panda welcomes people at the Panda Bridge Exit.

Panda Bridge's monument placed near the Park Exit

Spacious Panda Bridge
Voices of people who watch pandas in Ueno Park and of students on a school trip can be heard.

The grand concourse in front of the Central Gate

The shopping and eating complex along both sides of the grand concourse makes a bustling atmosphere in the station.

The name "Ueno" is derived from the fact that, in the early Edo Period, there was a suburban residence of Takatora Todo, a feudal load of Iga-Ueno, in the area around the present-day Ueno Zoological Gardens and Ueno Toshogu Shrine. The Todo family's grave still remains in the Ueno Zoological Gardens. Most buildings of Kan-eiji Temple in Ueno was burnt down during the Battle of Ueno fought between the Shogitai and Imperial troops in 1868, and the temple area was redeveloped as a park in 1872.
 Following the opening of the railroad between Tokyo and Shinbashi in 1872, construction of a railroad between Tokyo and Aomori was proposed by Tomomi Iwakura and others who were sent as a delegation to the United States and Europe. In 1880, American Railroad Engineer Joseph Crawford conducted a preliminary investigation about the construction of the railroad between Tokyo and Aomori. Then, "Nippon Railway" was incorporated in 1881, and construction of a railroad between Kawaguchi and Kumagaya was started in 1882 and completed in the same year. Although the railroad between Ueno and Kumagaya opened on July 28, 1883, Tomomi Iwakura, who strove to establish Nippon Railway and to build the railroad between Ueno and Kumagawa, died at the age of 58 on July 20 without witnessing the railroad's opening. At that time, a single-car train made two round trips a day between Ueno Station and Kumagaya Station, taking 2 hours and 24 minutes each way. Then in October 1883, the railroad was extended from Kumagaya to Honjo, and the train made three round trips a day. Although a brick station building was constructed in 1885, it was burnt down in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.

Crawford is called "The Father of Japanese Railroad" due to his distinguished services. Crawford also strove to establish "Horonai Railway," a Japanese government-managed railroad, as an adviser to Hokkaido Development Commissioner. Crawford Park was built next to the railroad memorial hall on the site of Mikasa Station on the former Hokkaido Horonai Line. Also, a statue of Crawford was built in front of the Otaru City Museum in order to honor his achievements.

A monument of "Ah, Ueno Station"

A monument of "Ah, Ueno Station" (lyrics by Yoshiro Sekiguchi, music by Eiichi Arai, song by Hachiro Izawa) stands beside the Ueno Hirokoji Exit. Middle or high school graduates from rural districts during the high-growth period around the early 1960s, who found employment as a group and were called "golden eggs," got off at Ueno Station. The lyrics "Carrying the memories of hometowns, those arriving trains are so nostalgic..." reflect those young people's longing for hometowns.[Click the picture to enlarge]

Ueno Station is crowded with people who make transfers or wait for trains bound for Tohoku or Joetsu Region, and people continuously come and go.

There are some iron pillars that retain remnants of the early Showa Period when the station was reconstructed.

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