Ueno is a part of the metropolis that is Tokyo and we had stopped there a night on our way from Asahikawa to Nara.
As the journey was from the centre of Hokkaido to the southern part of Honshu (or south-central), it would have been too stressful to try to make the whole trip continuously. So, we broke up our journey into Asahikawa to Hakodate, Hakodate to Tokyo (Ueno), and Tokyo (Ueno) to Nara. Over two nights (one night in Hakodate, and one in Ueno).
We did not know what to expect in Ueno. More of the same from Tokyo, or Shinjuku I guess.
Then we discovered the Ameyoko. Or more correctly, Ameyayokocho (the full name. Ameyoko is the local short form, just as Akhihabara is shortened by locals to just "Akhiba".)
|The street market runs under the railway tracks (up ahead). This was a quiet stretch.|
Ameyoko is crowded, messy, chaotic, lively street scene of shops, street food, vendors, and shoppers, both local and tourists. The shops were also an eclectic mix and is one of the most cosmopolitan places in Japan that I have seen. I see blacks (not sure if they are from Africa or the US) touting their goods in Japanese.
I bought a doner kebab (stuffed into a pita bread unlike in SG where it is wrapped in a thin flat bread - like a soft tortilla), from a... Turk? some middle eastern guy. We saw shops selling Chinese goods and Chinese food (and were quite sure they were Chinese. Or Taiwanese).
And I am quite sure there are other nationalities there too. Chinese and Korean are not visible minorities. The kebab fella was quite amused/surprised that I was not Japanese. They could all speak Japanese of course, to do business there.
After I had grabbed a doner as a stop-gap for my hunger, wife decided to try a Taiyaki (fish-shaped "waffle" with sweet bean paste filling - "asuki"?).
Then we decided we would have street food for dinner.
So we started looking around in earnest.
And settled on a street corner stall selling okonomiyaki, kushiyaki, and other food. We had edamame, shishito (sweet green peppers) on a skewer, unagi, maguro (grilled. I think I prefer sashimi), cheese, chicken with shiso leaves, and chicken with onions (all on skewers too).
The okonomiyaki was not Osaka-style. It was more of an omelette with some vegetables.
But it was fun. We like the shishito, it was sweet and spicy.
It wasn't the best food we had, but it was good. It was unpretentious street food. We would like to return.
Here are two blogs I found on Ameyoko, with lots of pictures.