Take the JR Chuo Line or the Metro Namboku, or Yurakucho Line to Ichigaya Station. Interestingly, the JR platform sits right on the bank of the river.
Ichigaya is a small, non-descript town on the east side of Tokyo. Its name means Market Valley. It’s a less-well maintained area and is seen by some in Tokyo as a lower-class area. But it’s worth a look around on a nice day – and it’s close to central Tokyo.
Ichigaya is at the very west end of Yasukuni-Dori. Just to the northeast is the controversial, but very interesting Yasukuni Shrine.
Perhaps the most well-known attraction in Ichigaya is the Ichigaya Fish Center – where many Tokyoites spend weekends or holidays fishing in the center’s small ponds. It’s a popular spot for families with small children.
There is also a popular bridge in Ichigaya which has some nice cherry blossom-viewing areas in the spring.
Just at the south end of Ichigaya jammed in next to the river is Sotobori Park – a small park with a sitting area, tennis courts, a baseball diamond, and a commercial fitness gym at the south end.
Ichigaya is also home to Chuo University + Hosei University, the later of which was recently remodeled – and which is more popular with international students.
While in the area you can also drop in at Iidabashi just to the north and check it out – which is also worth a look. Also just to the south down the main street is Yotsuya – which is well worth a quick walk. Yotsuya is home to Sophia University, and is just north of the interesting Akasaka. You can also jump off from Yotsuya to the west to Shinjuku fairly easily, although it is approx. 8 miles away. You can take the subway from Yotsuya Station on the corner to Shinjuku easily.
The central intersection in Yotsuya is Rt. 405 (Sotobori Dori) and Rt. 20 (Shinjuku Dori). The station is just on the northeast corner. To the east down Rt. 20 is the main center area where Sophia Univerity is. If you take 20 farther east it will lead you directly into Hanzoman and the Imperial Palace. To the south at the 415-405 split is Akasaka Palace which gives free tours when available. If you take 405 further southeast from there, you will arrive in Akasaka/Nagatcho where the central gov’t is located. Akasaka is a lively area and well worth a look on its own. 405 south past the split into Akasaka is a long gradual slope which cruises past the New Otani Hotel to the east. This slope makes for an interesting bike ride. The hotel has a renowned garden and a sky restaurant on top. If you head west on 20 several miles, you will eventually come to the central area of Shinjuku, which is one of the busiest parts of Tokyo. The walk from Yotsuya to Shinjuku is around 2.5 miles.
There are plenty of restaurants + cafés in Yotsuya as well – most notably St. Marc’s Café on the southwest corner of the intersection.
The central intersection facing east on Rt. 20. Sophia University is straight ahead. Rt. 405 south to Akasaka is to the right.
Yotsuya layout. The central intersection is center left, with Akasaka Palace just below it. Akasaka itself is in the lower-right corner with Rt. 405 running east-west then heading north. The New Otani Hotel is on the right in the green area at the 405 bend. Out of frame to the right (east) is the Imperial Palace. At the very north end of Yotsuya is the Japan Ministry of Defense.
At Sophia University facing back west towards the main intersection.The station is just out of frame to the right.
After heading west on Rt. 20 for several miles, you’ll be in Yotsuya-Sanchome. Make this crossing and continue west (left) to get to Shinjuku.Directly behind the camera is a MOS Burger.
Shinmichi Dori Street
Just west of Yotsuya Station across the street is the entrance to a narrow side street called Shinmichi Dori Street. This street is lined with hundreds of small but upscale restaurants and noodle shops. Well worth a walk.
Just 1/2 mile or so down Rt. 405 to the south is the Akasaka Palace – part of the imperial properties. When not in use, the gov’t normally provides free tours of the palace which is well worth a visit. To get there, just walk down Rt. 405 south on the right hand side of the street, then at the Rt. 415 split head right, then left at the next street for the entrance.
There are plenty of co-working spaces to chose from in Yotsuya – the most notable being Moboff (yes, places have names like that in Japan). There is also offices.co in the Tokyu Yotsuya Building and a WeWork . Like Book•Off and other “Off” type places, in Japan the word “Off” is short for “Offload”. So Book•Off means “Offload your books” and Moboff means “Offload your mob” – or in this case, your workforce. No, just kidding – Moboff more likely is a contraction for “Mobile Office” (Japanese love contractions of words – it’s one of the ways they save typing + shorten information).
Well that’s it. While Yotsuya isn’t a large area with lots to do, it’s still interesting + is centrally located to enough stuff that is. You can visit it as a short side trip to Akasuka, or on your way east from Shinjuku. The walk around Sophia University campus is nice too. If you’re in the area, check it out.
Nagatcho is a small area where the central gov’t in Japan is located. The Federal Diet Bldg. is here, as are assembly offices, and a the Prime Minister’s Office. Most activity in the area is centered around government work, but there is still a lot to see and do here.
Nagatcho is also the eastern gateway to a much more interesting area: Akasaka. We won’t go into Akasaka too much here, but we’ll touch on how to get there and a few interesting tidbits.
Being where the central gov’t is located, there are a lot of ways into Nagatcho: you can take one of the Subway Metro lines listed above, you can cycle, or you can walk. Nagatcho is just to the west of the Imperial Palace + Diet Bldg. and there is a nice sidewalk which runs the length of the palace’s moat (Chidorigafuchi) on the western side (known as the Hanzomon area (due to Hanzomon Gate which dates back centuries and protects the western side of the palace).
Subway lines include Yurakucho, Hanzomon, Namboku, and Ginza Lines. There are lots of station portals at the street level scattered all over the area, but the 3 most important ones are the Akasaka-mitsuke Station on Sotobori Dori around 35°40’34.24″ N 139°44’17.11″ E , Nagatacho Station (just up the street to the north), and the Tameike-sanno Station portal on a side street just behind the Prime Minister’s office. For Tameike-sanno Station, take only the Ginza or Namboku Lines. 2 other notable street-level portals are in the Sanno Park Tower, and in the basement of the Bic Camera store just to the northwest.
In short if you want to see the Diet area, hit the Tameike-sanno Station exit and walk up the street, if you want to see Sotoboto Dori Ave, the Bic Camera, or Akasaka, hit the Akasaka-mitsuke Station exits, or if you want to get to the north side go for any of the north Nagatacho Station exits. Also of particular note is Tokyo Garden Terrace to the north around 35°40’46.30″ N 139°44’13.85″ E, just west down the street from one of the Nagatacho Station exits. Around Christmas/New Year’s Tokyo Garden Terrace is a must-see (we’ll discuss this more below).
Nagatcho + Akasaka sit to the north of Toranomon, east of Roppongi, west of Imperial Palace, and south of Yotsuya.
Underground in a Nagatcho Station exit. Some subway stations in Japan have a decidedly Soviet feel to them.
Prime Minister’s Office viewed from Sotoboto Dori Ave. facing northeast.
Tameike-Sannō Station, and Prime Minister’s office, lower center. To the left out of frame is Akasaka and Sotoboto Dori Ave. the tall bldg. on the left is the Capitol Hotel Tokyu. On the far right are 3 Federal assembly offices. The smaller bldg. in the center is the APA Pride Hotel. This view is facing north.To the lower left out of frame is Sanno Park Tower.Akasaka-mitsuke Station is also out of frame just to the upper left corner.
Nagatcho is a fairly small area. There’s the central gov’t/Diet area, a small area north of that with various gov’t bldgs. and museums, a smaller area east just across from the Imperial Palace, and the area south of the central gov’t which rolls into Akasaka. Not much else, but the area is still interesting. A stroll or bike ride around the central area is interesting, and in the fall spectacular. There are also smaller various shrines (See below), historical points of interest and other things to do. When you’re done exploring the central gov’t area, head north to see Tokyo Garden Terrace Koicho (also see below), and then southwest to see Akasaka and all it has to offer.
If you want to see the Diet area, pop up out of Tameike-sanno Station which puts you just west of it. Akasaka proper is just 2 blocks west. Both the Prime Minister’s Office and Official Residence are on this street. Turn left (east) up a side street for the Diet bldg. One can spend hours just strolling up and down streets in the area.
A must-see area is just out front of the Diet to the west. There are 3 major attractions here: Kensei Memorial Park, a small historical park to the north of that, and further north, the Parliamentary Museum. Kensei Memorial Park has a very nice garden worth a stroll. The main road between the Diet and the palace is Uchibori Dori and is popular with joggers and walkers. In fact, you can circumnavigate the palace 360 degrees around over into Otemachi, Hibiya, and back. The entire distance is spectacular and one of the best walks in Tokyo.
Just to the southeast of Kensei Memorial Park is Kasumigaseki, where more gov’t bldgs. are located – including the HQ for the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is also a Metro station at Kasumigaseki.
Just south of Kasumigaseki is the must-see Hibiya Park. This lush well-kept park is huge with lots to see + do. Not bad for just 1 more block’s walk. Definitely hit it. There is also a very nice German Christmas Market held here every December.
Sanno Park Tower+ NTT DoCoMo HQ
Just to the south of Tameike-sanno Station 2 blocks on the corner of Sotoboto Dori Ave. is a giant skyscraper called Sanno Park Tower. There’s lots to do here. The basement has all kinds of shops + a convenience store. Sanno Park Tower is also home to Japan’s mobile phone company NTT DoCoMo. There are also cafés in the bldg. Just for kicks, you can have a brief thrill riding the massive gleaming glass corporate elevators from the lobby to the top floor. But be warned all floors including the top floor have lots of security guards, and you will not be admitted for any reason without a badge officially obtained in advance. Still, the elevator ride itself is a thrill – the huge glass elevators fly upward at incredible speed, while you watch the ground drop out from under you and their inner workings of cables + huge flywheels spin as you look on. And then in the blink of an eye you’ve been flung 50 stories skyward. Fun – if just for a few moments.
The massive glass elevators inside Sanno Park Tower – as close as you can get to an amusement park ride inside Corporate Japan.
Sanno Park Tower, left looking northeast on Sotobori Dori Ave. Tameike-sanno Station is just up this side street on the right. The Prime Minister’s Office is also just up this street to the right. Capitol Hotel Tokyu and APA Pride hotels are also up this street to the left. Just behind the small red van is a small round glass portal with an elevator inside which takes you down to shop level.
If you exit the Nagatcho Sta exit around 35°40’44.55″ N 139°44’25.63″ E and head just a few blocks west downhill, you’ll come to a major intersection on Sotoboto Dori with a river + Benkei Bridge and a huge office bldg. just to the north. One of the area’s best hidden gems is at the base of this bldg: Tokyo Garden Terrace Koicho.
Hotel choices in the area are endless. The aforementioned Capitol Hotel Tokyu is luxury beyond belief, but it will cost you $400+/night. Clearly the best value in the area is the APA Pride Hotel – which is is very deluxe + clean and in an off-peak time will cost you only around $70/night – unimagineable in the west. It’s right next to Capitol Hotel Tokyu. A definite winner. Hotel Monterey Hanzomon is also very nice, but a bit more expensive + little further north.
If you’re looking for a good capsule, lots of them abound in the area, but a really nice one is First Cabin Akasaka just to the west. There are lots of other hostel + capsule type hotels in the area.
The really cool hotel area is on the hidden small side street just behind the Bic Camera to the north. There are endless hotels here including Centurion Hotel, Granbell Hotel Akasaka, and Kitano Hotel Tokyo. The entrance to this hidden side street is around 35°40’35.15″ N 139°44’12.46″ E. Just across the street from that to the west is the Tokyu Plaza Akasaka Hotel – a huge hotel right at the north end of Akasaka. This is also a mixed-use development with lots of restaurants + shops and a mall. There is also a Metro subway portal just at the entrance to the hidden side street.
The area has lots of great co-working spaces at reasonable rates – most notably a very nice Regus space at Akasaka K Tower.
Just next to the Nagatcho Sta exit around 35°40’44.55″ N 139°44’25.63″ E is a great PMO shared office space. In fact it’s right next to the station exit.
Another very nice cowork space is GRID Nagatcho, which incredibly, is in the same block as PMO..
Smack behind the APA Pride Hotel to the west up on a big hill is Hie Shrine. You can exit the rear of APA Pride + climb the steps to reach the top. On the other side is a massive granite staircase which leads down to Sotoboto Dori Ave. and into Akasaka. The view from the top of the stairs allows you to look to the west, over a massive white Tori Gate, and into Akasaka. From here you can also see the TBS Broadcasting HQ a block away.
View from Hie Shrine facing west into Akasaka. Sotobori Dori Ave. is below. Straight ahead is Akasaka. The bldg. with the round section on top is the TBS HQ. There is also a small Japan Post Office just ahead on the left. On the 1st floor of the orange bldg. is a very nice FamilyMart conbini (convenience store). 1 block ahead on the right is a Tully’s Coffee, and beyond that Akasaka SACAS+ Akasaka Biz Tower (shown in vids below).Since Akasaka is just a stone’s throw from Nagatcho, it’s a must-see in the area.Also down this street just on the right is a huge First Cabin Akasaka capsule hotel.There are all kinds of restaurants and shops on this street + backstreets to the right.
Sanno Matsuri is a traditional Japanese festival held every other year which starts at Hie Shrine and ends later in the afternoon. If you’re in the area when it happens (usually in summer), it’s worth a look.
Dive Into Akasaka
To the west beyond Nagatcho is Akasaka proper. There are 2 main areas to see here: the Akasaka SACAS/Biz Tower area (and the Biz Tower Attrium mall next to it), and the myriad hidden side streets just to the northeast of that. There are some fabulous photos of the area over at Konnichiwa | My excellent Japanese adventure. JNTO also has a great page in English describing the area. The Akasaka SACAS area consists of: Akasaka SACAS, Biz Tower, Biz Tower Attrium, a Merto entrance, and several shops/restuarants across the street. There is also a concert hall called BLITZ to the north of Biz Tower Attrium. In the winter BLITZ has an outdoor ice-skating rink. The TBS broadcasting HQ is also in the area. BLITZ is owned + operated by TBS. A Tully’s is also located across the street:
Tully’s across the street from Akasaka SACAS/Biz Tower facing north. Nagatcho is to the right (east). The large First Cabin Akasaka hotel is the white bldg. on the right.The hidden side street area is just behind this block.2 blocks down on the right is the large FamilyMart, and there are all sorts of other great restaurants + shops on this street to the right.Don’t be afraid to wander down side streets to find unexpected enjoyment.
Akasaka’s Hidden Gem: The Hidden Side Street
Starting at around 35°40’37.79″ N 139°44’13.16″ E to the north, and running north-south is a long hidden side street behind the Bic Camera bldg. At night, this street is actually the livliest street in the area and is a must-see. At night this street comes alive with light, sound, smells, restaurants, shops, clubs, and bars. You can spend an entire evening here and not even scratch the surface. In addition there are several smaller adjacent side streets to explore. If you go to Nagatcho/Akasaka, absolutely do not miss this street. Photos are shown in the Additional Photos section below.
If you head up west from the Akasaka SACAS corner where the Tully’s coffee is, you’ll find the street extends west with more interesting shops + restuarants. Finally at the end you’ll come to a tunnel which leads out of the area:
You’ll also see lots of baton-wielding police in the area (shown in the 1st image at the top of this page), due to the critical nature of the central gov’t. If you’re behaving however, and not causing any trouble, they will generally leave you alone. If you get too rowdy, especially inside gov’t bldgs., they may very well arrest you + throw you in prison. And you do not want to ever end up in a Japanese prison because in Japan, guilt is assumed. It’s not the same as the US. If you do end up in one, a forced confession is likely (even if you are innocent), and if you are a foreigner, you will mostly likely serve some time, and then be deported and banned from ever entering the country again. If the police do approach you and ask to see your passport or alien registration card, be ready to provide it in an instant. By law, foreigners are required to carry their passport/registration card on them at all times, so be prepared. Don’t risk a prison term in Japan due to sheer neglect or bad behavior. It’s just not worth it. Always remember you’re a guest in someone else’s country. Respect them.
One more note about the Nagatcho/Akasaka area is because it’s the national central gov’t area, nearly everything in the area except the hidden side street shuts down early at night. So be prepared to not have access to certain things after around 9 PM. Trains however, continue to operate until 11-12 PM.
Overall master view. North is to the top. To the upper right is Imperial Palace, with the Diet + offices center right, left into central Nagatcho, then south + left into Akasaka. Notable buildings are the TBS HQ in the far lower left corner, Akasaka Biz Tower to the upper-right of that, Sanno Park Tower is the huge bldg. lower right center, and the large grey bldg. is Tokyu Garden Terrace just left of center at the top of the frame. If you continue along the major road shown at the top of the photo up to the northwest, you’ll pass the Imperial State House (which offers tours normally), and then into Yotsuya. If you turn left (west) at the main Yotsuya intersection, after a long way you’ll reach Shinjuku. Hibiya is just out of frame to the lower right.The small square bldg. with the blue square on the roof to the right of Sanno Park Tower is the Official Prime Minister’s Residence. APA Pride and Capitol Hotel Tokyu are hidden from view behind Sanno Park Tower. Just to the upper-left of Sanno Park Tower is Hie Shrine. Sotobori Dori Ave. is the main road running north-south. Just out of view to the southeast is Toranomon, and beyond that to the south Shimbashi.To the left out of frame about a mile is Roppongi.
Looking back north at the Diet Bldg. approaching from Toranomon to the south.
Bic Camera on Sotobori Dori.(In Japan it’s pronounced “Bee-ka Ca-mé-da” by locals).
.belleVie shopping complex, including Bic Camera. A subway portal is just down the stairs to the right. If you pass straight through to the other side, you’ll be on the hidden side street. Make a left.You’ll come out near the entrance to the hidden side street just down on the right here:
Entrance to the hidden side street facing south. At night this street comes alive with restaurants, shops, clubs, and hotels. The .belleVie shopping complex is the large bldg. on the left. This street is probably the #1 attraction to see in the Nagatcho/Akasaka area at night. If you walk this street a few blocks and turn right, you’ll come to the Akasaka SACAS area. 90 degrees to the left out of view is the Tokyu Plaza Akasaka Hotel:
Turn to your left 180 degrees from the entrance to the hidden side street, and you’ll see Tokyo Garden Terrace Koicho (the tall bldg.) just to your left only 2 blocks away.Tokyu Plaza Akasaka Hotel is the large white bldg. on the right.There’s another portal to Akasaka-mitsuke Station shown in the center. The plaque shown in the previous photo is just out of view to the right.
Heading west up the street across from Hie Shrine, which leads to the next corner shown in the next photo below. You can also hang a right here before the corner at the brick alley to get to the hidden side street heading north.
The view on the corner with the Tully’s facing west. Akasaka SACAS/Biz Tower are just ahead as shown in the photo below:
Akasaka SACAS/Biz Tower. A Metro portal is the small box on the right next to the lighted signs.Biz Tower is on the right, and beyond the lights on the left is the Biz Tower Atrium complex – and beyond that, BLITZ.You can also head right here down the street the Tully’s is on instead for more discovery:
There is a restaurant/bar just to the right called SMT. If you continue down the street north of that you’ll see:
There is also another small APA Hotel on this street as well.The hidden side street runs one block parallel to the right (east).
Looking back east from the Akasaka SACAS/Biz Tower area towards the Tully’s. There are more streets to the right (south) to explore as well.
The view of west Nagatcho facing north from the pedestrian bridge next to the entrance to the hidden side street. Tokyo Garden Terrace Koicho is at the base of the tall bldg. on the right. A Nagatcho Station Metro entrance is just up the hill to the east (right).
Looking back south 180 degrees from the photo above. The hidden side street is just to the right of the small black bldg. right of center. A Metro portal is just in front of that. The main gov’t area is off to the left a few blocks, Sotobori Dori is the street on the left with the cars on it.
Centurion Hotel on the hidden side street.
The hidden side street heading south – a must see. Itamae Sushi on the right is very popular. Down on the left a bit is a good jazz club.
The station exit at the small Metro portal in Nagatcho on the north side.Very Soviet-feeling.
Facing west from the north end of Akasaka. If you take this road northwest you’ll pass the Imperial Statehouse and come to Yotsuya. If you turn left @ Yotsuya, it will take you to Shinjuku several miles down. if you turn right here, you’ll see: