Just west of the Imperial Palace and just north of the natonal Diet Building in Tokyo is the small district of Hanzomon. The area is rich in history and dates back to the 1600’s. It’s named after a Edo-period samurai Hattori Hanzō, who was a guard and retainer for Tokugawa Iyesu, who later became a Shogun. Hattori died just before 1600.
Hanzomon was orginally a sentry outpost on the west side of the Imperial Palace grounds. The area is bounded on the west side by a large moat which runs north-south around the palace. Around 35°41’05.75″ N 139°44’39.04″ E is an ancient sentry post building called Hanzomon Gate.
The area is accessible in several ways: you can walk around the sidewalk on the north side of the palace + wind around down to the south (along Rt. 401), you can take the Tokyo Metro subway on the Hanzomon Line to Hanzomon Station/Z05, or you can walk to to from the south in the Nagatcho/Akasaka area where the Diet Building is located.
You can also ride the road that rings the palace on a bike – if you’re feeling adventurous. The ride downhill from the northwest of the palace all the way down into Nagatcho is a spectacular ride, especially at dawn.
The moat is open to the public for small non-powered boats in the spring – and the area is a popular recreation area for joggers + walkers.
One YouTuber even made a video of every stop on the Hanzomon Line from a conductor’s POV out the front of a train (see vid below).
Hanzomon Gatecirca late 1800’s.
Today a sidewalk runs almost exactly where these people are standing.
To get to Hazomon on the Metro, take any station on the Hanzomon Line and exit station Hanzomon Station/Z05 (Hanzomon). You will be slightly west of Hanzomon Gate and just north of the Diet Building.
The station is off to the west and directly north of the Diet Building to the south. It’s an easy walk from one area to another. The moat rings the palace grounds t the east across Rt. 401. To the southeast is Hibiya and Hibiya Park as well as Kasumigaseki (which has its own station).
Hanzomon area: Imperial Palace + gardens to the northeast, Hanzomon to the west (left side of frame), and Diet Building in Nagatcho to the south.Kasumigasekiis in the lower right corner.
To the west less than a mile is the north end of the Akasaka area – a hip + trendy area popular with young people. The area also contains the very upscale New Otani Hotel. Just to the west of that is the Imperial State House guest house – which offers free tours when foreign dignitaries aren’t occupying it.
However, the real interesting part of Akasaka is just to the south down Rt. 405.
One last word: be aware that because of its proximity to the Imperial Palace + Diet Building, the area is crawling with security. Behave yourself and don’t do anything which might even slightly be construed as threatening while in the area. The guards don’t take kindly to problems or disturbances. In general if you mind your business, you’ll be fine.
Hanzomon is an interesting historical area, as well as a nice place to stroll around or ride a bike, weather permitting. If you have time and are on the Hanzomon Line, stop in and check it out.
Aoyama (Blue Mountain in Japanese) is located just southeast of Omotesando/Harajuku in western Tokyo. The area is mostly shopping, but it’s worth a look and provides a nice stroll. The town is named after the late samurai Aoyama Tadanari, who was a daimyo in the area during Tokugawa Shogunate rule.
A main street named Aoyama-dori runs south-northeast through the town. You can start anywhere on the street, but if you head east, then south from Omote-sando Station, you can start at the Ao Building:
At the very south end of Aoyama-dori is a large building + complex called Ao Building. Itcontains a Kinokuniya bookstore, 2 outstanding restaurants (steakhouse ECM, and Two Rooms grill), and various other places of interest. If you’re up for a fine dining experience and willing to spend a lot of bucks, Two Rooms is an absolute must-see.
There is also a large farmer’s market just a block south on the same side of the street.
Just a block or so to the south of the market on the other (east) side of the street around 35°39’37.43″ N 139°42’26.78″ E is a popular little yogurt place called Tea and Spoon Nanaya Aoyama. If you’re up for a walk a few blocks to the south, check it out. It’s on a backstreet.
If you’re up for a walk 1/2 a mile to the east, around 35°39’45.14″ N 139°43’01.28″ E is the Nezu Museum.
After you’ve checked out Ao Building, head north on Aoyama-dori for a nice stroll. You can head all the way north on it past the Imperial State House Gardens, and then into Akasaka.
Beer Brain+ Stockholm Roast
Around 35°40’03.31″ N 139°42’52.00″ E as you stroll north is a tiny little project on a trailer built by a few entrepreneurs called Beer Brain. It’s a small popular beer hangout – but it’s tiny – just a plywood shack. There is outside seating.
Also in the area on the same side of the street is a great little outdoor walk-up café called Stockholm Roast (which has seating on the roof). Both are excellent.
As you continue north there are 2 more places of interest: Miyota, a popular restaurant, and Modern Works, a new furniture store:
There is also an Olympic bike shop nearby, which incredibly, sells a Hummer mountain bike made by General Motors.
As you continue north, you’ll come to a fork in the road. You can either take the left side and end up at the new 2020 Olympics complex, or you can take the right side and end up in Akasaka, which is also well-worth seeing. If you’re hungry after all that walking, there is a nice big 2-story Doutour café right at the split. If you take the right side far enough, eventually you’ll end up in Shinjuku.
Take the left side for the Olympic venue, or the right side for Akasaka.The Doutour is just on the left in the center and has some good cheap meals under $5.
Right around the split, if you take the right side, off to the south is the vast Ayoyama Cemetary, which is nearly 1/2 a mile wide. Buried here, among others is Ōkubo Toshimichi, a Japanese statesman from the 1800’s who was a major figure in the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Toshimichi was instrumental in ending the Tokugawa Shogunate and the feudal system in Japan. The small town of Okubo, now a Korean enclave, a few miles to the north was named after him.
While there may not be a ton to do in Aoyama, it’s still worth a look. You can stroll Aoyama-dori for hours, get some exercise, and still have fun. You can always check out Omotesando back to the west if you like.
Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens is only 1 of 3 remaining daimyo (feudal lord) gardens from the early Edo Period. Land was often granted to daimyo – or put under their care for the shogun or emperor. The gardens date back to the early 1600’s and you can still see many artifacts from centuries past (such as the large stone bridge).
Unlike many Japanese gardens, Korakuen has a more Chinese (Confucian) design.
Things To Do
The park has lots of walking trails, a large and a small pond, and some great views of Tokyo from various vantage points.
The name “Ginza” is synonymous the world over with luxury + wealth. The name itself means “Silver Mint” – because when the Tokugawa Shogunate moved Japan’s capital from Kyoto to Edo (now Tokyo) in the early 1600’s, the largest silver mint in Japan was relocated to Ginza as well. (The name Tokyo actually means “Eastern Capital“).
Ginza is an astonishing place – not just for its luxury stores, and upscale vibe, but there’s a feel to the place all its own – let’s just call it an air of positivity. It’s also centrally located on the east side of Tokyo which makes it a good jumping off point to other parts of the city. To the north is Tokyo Station and the Marunouchi area – the central finance district of Tokyo, to the west is the Imperial Palace and Hibiya, and to south is Shimbashi.
One can wander the backstreets of Ginza, especially at night, and be dazzled at every turn.
There is also a large-scale diorama of late 19th century Ginza at the Edo-Tokyo Museum.
A typical store in Ginza.
Be sure to first read our Yurakucho Superguide as it contains all the info you need on the main station near Ginza – Yurakucho, and the surrounding area to the west of Ginza. There are also smaller underground stations on the Ginza Line, Marunouchi Line, Hibiya Lines around Ginza at street level – but there is no central above-ground Ginza Station, surprisingly.
Tokyo Station is just to the north of Yurakucho and Ginza and is an easy walk in just a few minutes. Hibiya and the Imperial Palace are just to the west of the TIF and are also an easy walk. If you start early enough, you can see all 3 areas in one day – although that would be a very full day. Ginza alone can easily take 12-14 hours to fully explore and possibly a few days if you really want to see everything in-depth.
For ease of access, other than Yurakucho Station, the Ginza Metro Station is probably the best bet for most people – it also stops at many other interesting areas on the Ginza Line including Asakusa (its eastern terminus), Ueno, Kanda, Shimbashi, Toranomon, Akasaka-mitsuke, Omotesando, and Shibuya (its western terminus). It pops up onto the street in central Ginza with several different exits with the main one being around 35°40’19.54″ N 139°45’50.72″ E.
A few blocks east of the center of Ginza Crossing is Higashi-Ginza Station on the Hibiya Line (Higashi is the Japanese word for east, nishi means west).
Ginza lies to the southeast of Yurakucho in a roughly 5-block area. The 2 towns are right next to each other. Most of Ginza is laid out in a grid with a major central street running in both the north-south, and east-west directions. Just to the northwest of Yurakucho is the Tokyo International Forum – the elongated bldg. shown in the upper left of the photo above. Yurakucho Station is just south of that, and Ginza is the area in the lower center area of the frame.The Hibiya area is in the upper left corner.
First, the Yurakucho area itself is worth a look. Adjacent to the Hibiya area, both can easily take a day to explore. Both are worth it. The north end of Yurakucho is the gateway to central Tokyo from the south – it’s well worth it to explore this area. See our Yurakucho Superguide for a comple guide to the area.
Tokyo International Forum to the North
Also a must-see is the Tokyo International Forum just to the north of Yurakucho. The TIF has a courtyard to the west with lots of cafés, restaurants, and shops. The buildings to the west are office + hotels. Definitely check the area out. North of that is Tokyo Station. The Forum also hosts the Oedo Antique Market on the 1st + 3rd weekend of every month right in the courtyard.
Yurakucho facing east. Ginza is straight ahead, Yurakucho Station directly behind the camera. The tall square bldg. ahead is MARRIONER GATE – a large shopping complex.Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan is a small shopping center built in the 1970’s.OIOI (pronounced Marui) is a large depato (department store) on the right.
Facing east crossing from Yurakucho into Ginza at MARRIONER GATE.Yurakucho is behind the camera.On the right is the new UNIQLO Ginza.
Ginza | Nz is between Yurakucho and MARRIONER GATE in Ginza. This photo is facing south at the MARRIONER GATE crossing. MARRIONER GATE is to the east (left).
West side of Yurakucho Station facing east.Pass through the tunnel at the bottom of the frame to get to the east side.Ginza is just on the other side of the tall building.
To get to Ginza from Yurakucho cross Sotobori-Dori from any of the side streets to the east. You may want to start at either the north or south end, and criss-cross the Ginza streets in a pattern since they are laid out in a grid. The main center of Ginza – Ginza Crossing and its world-famous Wako Building is down about 3 blocks east at 35°40’17.12″ N 139°45’53.76″ E. If you cross at the south end of Yurakucho near the new Tokyu Plaza around 35°40’20.09″ N 139°45’49.73″ E, you will be at the Wako Bldg. in 3 blocks. A famous corner Nikon (pronounced nee-kon, not nigh-kon) camera store and the Hermes building are on this corner as you cross. 2 blocks to the east is the SEIKO Watch Museum on the left.
Tokyu Plaza is well worth a stop in and of itself – it has a lot of great restuarants on the top floor + a very nice open-air rooftop garden. There is also a huge indoor café on one of the upper floors with floor-to-ceiling windows which provide a spectacular view of Ginza at night. It’s just to the south of the Yurakucho area.
Milky 70 Ice cream shop around 35°40’21.43″ N 139°45’48.96″ E.
About 3 blocks southeast of Matsuya Ginza around 35°40’10.59″ N 139°45’53.82″ E is the spectacular new Ginza Six complex. A multi-use mall with shops, restaurants, and other attractions, Ginza Six is worth a stop. It also features a very nice open-air terrace shown below:
Namiki-Dori is one of many avenues running east-west in Ginza. Yurakucho is just a few blocks to the right.There is also a MetroGinza subway portal on the corner.
Tokyo Square Garden
Just 1 block east of the Yurakucho crossing around 35°40’34.43″ N 139°46’09.47″ E is a bright new complex called Tokyo Square Garden. If you’re in Ginza it’s a must-see. Loaded with new shops, malls, restuarants, and offices, it’s one of Ginza’s up and coming addresses. There is also a WeWork co-working space inside. Check it out.
Food options are endless in Ginza, and much of the fare is ultra-luxury high end restuarants + confectionary stores. There are also wineries, delicacy shops, and even upscale ramen places. Great Sushi places abound. You may want to do some web research before you go to determine which places you want to eat at since there are so many it’s impossible to catalog them all here. There are plenty of good places in Yurakucho as well including the Miami Café, OIOI and LUMINE food floors, and the Matsuya Ginza food basement, which is one of the best in Tokyo. Many of the large depato have great food on their upper floors, which is a common trend in modern Tokyo.
If you explore the backstreets you will find plenty of smaller ramen and other food shops – authentic local Japanese cuisine.This area is called Yurakucho Concourse and is directly under the train tracks to the east side of the station.
Ginza Sky Lounge
On top of Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan is the Ginza Sky Lounge restaurant – a laid back understated restaurant with a great view overlooking Ginza.
2 blocks east of Yurakucho around 35°40’20.59″ N 139°46’03.08″ E is the deluxe Kit-Kat Chocolatory. For some reason Kit-Kat is deemed a western luxury delicacy all over Japan – not the commodity candy bar it is considered in US supermarkets. There are endless flavors + styles of Kit-Kat in Japan, unlike in the west. If you like chocolate, this shop is a must-see in Ginza. There is also a new monster Kit-Kat store over in Shinjuku across the city. You can buy some of the Japan-themed Kit-Kats online over at yummy bazaar.
Just on the border of Ginza on the west side and Shiodomé on the east, there is this little Don Quijote100¥ shop (known to locals simply as Donki). Like most Don Quijotes in Tokyo, they have a wide variety of goods packed into tiny aisles. They also have cheap snacks + cheap coffee. You can get a non-perishable 1 liter bottle of UCC Coffee for $.88 cents. Oddly, this Don Quijote has a wide variety of cheap but good bicycles for sale out front. They even have one made by GM’s Hummer brand. Definitely worth a stop.
Cheap culinary snack delights await you @ Don Quijote Ginza.
Around 35°40’09.81″ N 139°46’03.64″ E, about a block or 2 east of Ginza Crossing is the Kabukiza Theater – one of Japan’s largest, and oldest Kabuki theaters. Kabuki is an ancient form of morality play and has survived to the modern day. The theater was destroyed by World War 2 Allied bombing but was rebuilt. There is also a tiny Japanese garden on the theater’s rooftop. Well worth a stop to check out some of traditional Japan. Shows are expensive – expect to pay a few hundred dollars. If you want quick, direct access to the theater by subway, take the Metro Hibiya Line to Higash-Ginza Station and exit to the street.
Well that’s it for now. There are endless things to do in Ginza and you can easily spend a few days here. It’s an absolute must-see if you’re in Tokyo.
Facing south on Sotobori-Dori – crossing into Ginza on the left from Yurakucho on the right.Tokyu Plaza Ginza is the tall black building in the distance. The shopping complex on the right is called Ginza | Nz.
Near the Hermes Bldg. shown above is the interesting Ginza Sony Park. There’s a cool little underground museum called Design Museum Box down a staircase at street level right next to the Hermes Bldg. Worth a quick look. There’s also a newly opened PlayStation museum in the basement.
From the south tip of Ueno Park, head south on the west sidewalk and head down a side alley on the right to get onto the sidewalk sourrounding Shinobazu Pond.
Head left (south) around the pond.
As the sidewalk turns around to the south, look for the entrance on the left. There’s a street light on your left. The entrance to the side street is shown on Google Earth below. The top in this case is south:
Turn left out of the pond area, and cross the street. The entrance to the hidden street is straight ahead, and is shown here on the right (you’ll be entering from the left side of the frame). The pond area entrance is shown directly on the left in this photo – just cross the street straight ahead of the pond exit when you come out.
Especially at night, this street is interesting:
If you go 2 blocks south on this street, you’ll end up on the 2nd busiest street on the east side of Ueno Station. There is also a big Don Quijote discount store on that street shown here:
This Don Quijote also has cheap food: $1.78 1 liter mixed vegetable drinks, and $1.78 1 liter UCC Coffee. And some cheap snacks. Can’t go wrong.
As a footnote, if you turn to the right when you come out of the pond area instead of going straight @ the light, you’ll find a lot of good hotels on the south side of the street as you head east – including a women’s-only hostel – the Centurion Ladies’ Hostel, shown here:
As an interesting historical footnote, Shinobazu Pond was a strategic security point during the Tokugawa Shogunate, and a temple was built there to serve as a north guardpost to help defend the Imperial Palace. The site was also of historical significance in the Boshin War in the mid-1800’s.