AT A GLANCE
What do you expect from an office town? Grids of nondescript gray buildings and streets lined with cloned salarymen? Toranomon was once the embodiment of this but thankfully no longer. It’s the up and coming area of Tokyo primarily due to the Mori Building Company - made famous for is audacious redevelopment of locations such as Roppongi and Omotesando. Toranomon Hills recently joined the ranks of its siblings Roppongi Hills, Omotesando Hills and Ark Hills in Akasaka. It’s really revitalized a once staid and boring area into a bustling and, sometimes beautiful spot, in the beating heart of the city.
The neighborhood, to be honest, is still packed with office workers. However, since the Mori investment and subsidies from the Tokyo local government, the area is becoming the new hotspot. Cool boutiques and restaurants and the promise of Toranomon becoming the new Omotesando is slowly attracting a new, younger and hipper crowd. The government want to transform the area into a Parisian style series of cool boulevards in time for the 2020 Olympics and this has seen the widening of sidewalks and the introduction of cafes with outside seating - something that the this part of the city has never seen before. They also plan to line the streets with trees and recreate an Omotesando feel to the area - something that the locals agree is a good thing.
WHAT TO EXPECT
It’s important to remember that Toranomon is still very much a work in progress. Don’t expect too much. However it still has something to offer. Mori’s Toranomon Hills is a massive structure full of restaurants, spas and cafes tailored towards various needs. One of the best offerings is Bebu Burger on the first floor where, all truth be told, you can buy the best hamburger in the city. Yes, it’s that good. Like a lot of Tokyo, however, it’s best to walk around and choose places at random. Or ask the well-versed locals where the best watering holes and eateries are.
Also look for locations off the beaten track like the Japan Sake Center which is in a nondescript building but offers a once in a lifetime experience. Wall to wall sake from every prefecture in the country and a shed load of interesting information, in English and various other languages, about how the liquor is made and presented. For a paltry 500 yen you can choose five sakes from a long list and sample the sake and make your list of favorites. And as an added bonus the lovely staff speak English and can advise on your various choices. It’s never advertised and an unknown destination for residents and locals but well worth a visit. You can purchase from a tremendous list of sake too and even buy or watch a DVD on the amazing process of how sake is made.
WHAT NOT TO EXPECT
It’s an office area so don’t expect much going on after the bars and izakayas shut around 11. Also, even though there are some boutiques like Journal Standard that have opened up in the area, if you are looking for shopping options it’s best to go to nearby Ginza for the big department stores such as Mitsukoshi or Matsuya. Saying that, however, Toranomon is a location very much on transition so it wouldn’t be surprising to see clubs and late night bars opening in the near future.
Toranomon is very much the up and coming location in Tokyo. One of the first firms to get in on the action was The Craft Beer Market which opened in the area a few years back. One of the cheapest bars in the capital to try various craft beers and some nice bites it’s become a favorite with tourists and locals alike. Although the sullen staff can, occasionally, put a downer of a night out. If things get too heavy head to the Andaz Hotel which is the major part of the Toranomon Hills complex. The hotel has an array of top-notch bars, cafes and restaurants which satiate the most demanding of visitors. The Andaz has also been named, by Monocle, as one of the top hotels in the world. So well worth a visit.
YOU’LL FALL IN LOVE WITH
It’s an office area but slap bang in the middle of the skyscrapers in the most glorious shrine - Kotohiragu. It was originally built in the 1600s and was destroyed in the war and rebuilt in the early 50s. It stands testament to the resilience to the Japanese people and is a beautiful and tranquil oasis in the middle of the city. Salarymen and visitors gather alike to catch a breath, pray and pay respects to such a key structure in Tokyo’s history. After walking around and experiencing the stress of the capital it’s a welcome place of solitude to collect your thoughts and reflect on the complexities and beauty of the city.