The district is known for its large stores selling traditional Japanese dolls (although some of the largest doll stores, such as Kyugetsu and Shugestu, are located across Edo-dori avenue, thus belonging to the Yanagibashi neighborhood) and it hosts a very large concentration of beads stores.
The Ryuhoku campus of the Lycée franco-japonais de Tokyo (Franco-Japanese High School of Tokyo) is also located in this neighborhood.
San'ya dates to the Edo period. Lower caste workers, butchers, tanners, leatherworkers, and the like, were forced to live in this undesirable region by the predominantly Buddhist authorities. It has retained its association with both lower class workers and with craftsmen. Within the past few years gentrification has begun to encroach on the area.
Ueno is part of the historical Shitamachi (literally "low city") district of Japan, a working class area rather than where the aristocrats and rich merchants lived. Today the immediate area, due to its close proximity to a major transportation hub, retains high land value but just a short walk away to the east or north reveals some of the less glitzy architecture of Tokyo.
Ueno Park and Ueno Station are also home to a large percentage of Tokyo's homeless population. Though nearly invisible in other parts of Tokyo, the homeless population in Ueno can be found sleeping or communing in large numbers around the "ike" (ponds) of this district.