Ameya Yokocho (Ameyoko, for short) is a famous shopping street in Ueno, a Tokyo district with attractions such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tokyo National Museum, and Ueno Park. Ameyoko is a must-visit Tokyo shopping street, providing authentic Japanese street food in Ueno that won’t break the bank.
Located between Okachimachi Station and Ueno Station, the sprawling expanse of Ameyoko is home to around 400 stores which sell Japanese street food, seafood, snacks, clothing, and more. With the Ueno Park nearby, it can get extremely crowded at Ameya Yokocho during the weekend, and during the winter holiday season it is especially packed as the mass of foreign visitors and Japanese officeworkers on vacation days converge. The Ameyoko Street Food Guide will cover the must-try street food gems in the area, read on to find out more about this popular Ueno food spot.
A Brief History of Ameyoko (Ameya Yokocho)
Beside the busy railway tracks passing through Ueno lies the former black market of Tokyo where, after World War II, Tokyo residents could come to buy fresh produce. Ameyoko was also a popular spot for candy stores and the name “Ameya Yokocho” is supposedly a nod to those roots as ame means “candy,” ya means “shops,” and yokocho means “alley.” Directly, Ameya Yokocho could be translated as “candy store alley.” Another possibility is that the “ame” is an abbreviation for “American,” as there were many American products sold there as well. Whichever definition of the name you’d like to believe, one thing stands true: Ameyoko is Ueno’s street food paradise.
Ameyoko Street Food
1. Takoyaki at Minatoya
Savor some takoyaki, a batter-based ball filled with a piece of octopus, green onions, and pickled ginger, and topped with Worcestershire-like sauce, mayonnaise, aonori (powdered seaweed) and dried bonito flakes. Minatoya in Ameyoko serves up affordable, hot, and simply delicious takoyaki, with a perfectly soft outer layer of dough, molten-hot interior, and a generous portion of octopus inside.
2. Chicken Karaage at Chicken Man
For those who find “tako” or octopus a bit out of their comfort zone, how about munching some chicken karaage from Chicken Man? This Turkish-run restaurant is Halal certified and serves rotisserie chicken, sandwiches, salad, pizza, and more! They are dedicated to all things chicken, and their karaage can be eaten with sweet, spicy, and very spicy sauce.
3. Yakitori (Grilled Chicken Skewers)
Another must try chicken dish is the chicken yakitori shop near Bentendo Temple, just a stone’s throw away from Ameyoko. The shop owner has mastered the art of grilling chicken skewers to perfection. They’re slightly charred and smokey with a juicy interior. Another must-try at this yakitori shop is their tsukune chicken meatball yakitori.
4. Chinese Street Food at Tentenraku
Sink your teeth in somme freshly fried Shifu Shun Xiao Long Bao at Tentenraku in Ameyoko. These tasty Shanghai-style fried dumplings can be dipped in black vinegar for an added kick. Meanwhile, for those meat pie lovers, Tentenraku has its own Chinese version of this dish. For ¥200 you can get an Oyama Meat Pie, a deep-fried patty that is served crispy and overloaded with meat. Topping it with horseradish wasabi dressing elevates the taste of this meaty delight.
5. Ueno Mori no Panya San
Ueno Mori no Panya San, a bakery in located in L’UENO, just a 2-minute walk from the center of Ameya Yokocho, combines cute design and great flavor. This bakeshop’s famous bread is not only tasty and creamy but also comes in the shape of adorable animals. Try their sweet turtle melon bread or cream cheese panda bun, but be sure to snap a photo for Instagram first!
6. Sweets at Kimi Noen
Ameyoko, the “candy store alley” boasts various confections, so no Ueno street food adventure would not be complete without dessert. Kimi Noen, a tea shop located near the entrance arc of Ameyoko, serves thirst-quenching teas and tea-flavored desserts such as Matcha Ice Cream. Walk a few meters from Kimi Noen and you will find stores selling crisp and flavor-filled taiyaki, or pancakes filled with either creamy custard or sweet red beans which pair great with matcha ice cream!
7. Daifuku Mochi at Shimura Candy Shop
For those who love fusing flavors, scout the streets of Ameyoko for daifuku and other tasty confections. Daifuku mochi can have various fillings ranging from matcha to fruit flavors like mango, peach, and strawberry. Check out the Shimura Candy Shop where you can find a variety of Japanese sweets, candies, and chocolates, and mochi to take home as souvinirs.
8. Fruit Stalls
Like candy and sweets, fresh fruits are abundant in Ameyoko, with various peddlers selling skewers of fruit ranging from ¥100 to ¥200 per piece. Visit Ameyoko’s fruit shop, Hyakkaen, for skewers of freshly-cut fruit. Bestsellers include watermelon, pineapple, honeydew, and melon, but it varies depending on the season.
9. Ameyoko Izakaya Pubs & Tachinomiya Standing Bars
Aside from grab-and-go food offerings in Ameyoko, the Ueno food paradise also has small izakayas and sidewalk eateries where you can grab a bite to eat alongside various drinks. Try roasted offal at Motsuyaki Daitoryo Shiten or head to Bunraku for famous yakitori and their refreshing Shio Sour (a salt and lemon-based drink).
This Ameyoko Street Food Guide has covered some of the most delicious eats in Ueno’s famous Ameya Yokocho shopping street. Ueno, Tokyo’s cultural center, is home to not only Ueno Park and several famous museums, but also some of the most delicious Japanese street food. Ameya Yokocho should be on the bucket list of every foodie in Tokyo.
Aleli is a wanderlust whose main itinerary is to culture soak in the places that she sets foot on, sinking her teeth in the gustatory offerings that the place has to offer and knowing the story behind it. Food for her is a marriage of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the rich history of every city she explores and uses the pen as her tool to share to the world each unique experience she unravels.