Surrounded by the extravagance of areas such as Marunouchi, Ginza, Hibiya and Shimbashi, this old-school neighborhood is something of an island extending in a narrow strip beneath the Yamanote line. But it does have a few modern surprises up its sleeve…
Yurakucho is a foodie’s paradise. There are plenty of cafés, bars and restaurants catering for those with both tight and expansive budgets. Under the tracks there is the (in)famous Yakitori Alley serving up chicken skewers and watered down beer to locals and tourists alike. You can even indulge in authentic Korean barbeque, cheap ramen from ramshackle huts and pick up some fruit and veg from the wee market stalls that dot the area.
The really good stuff in the form of sweaty and gargantuan burgers, however, can be found just outside Tokyo International Forum (more on TIF later). American hamburger chain Shake Shack serves up all kinds of juicy goodness, shakes and treats at its newish restaurant. Lines are to be expected but if the thought of hamburger juice running down your chin and arms turns you on then it’s a no-brainer.
The slightly more refined diner should head to the legendary Shin Hinomoto (aka Andy’s) izakaya run by an Englishman who prides himself on supplying an authentic Japanese dining experience. Booze, fish and traditional dishes are enjoyed by those in the know and greedy tourists searching for the foodie Promised Land.
All Say Prost!
Although no-one seems to know why there are so many German bars in the area (and even more German/Japanese-style beer halls opening soon), they have huge after-work pulling power for salarymen and women. Not cheap but selling traditional German brews such as Bitburger, Hofbrau and Franziskaner alongside sausages and sauerkraut, pubs Baden Baden and JS Lennep are magnificent if looking for an electrifying atmosphere and good ol’ knees up. Even better is that they’re located right next to each other so there’s no excuse for not missing your last train home.
Have Money to Burn?
For those passionate about all things electronic, Yurakucho has a huge Bic Camera branch choc-a-bloc with cameras, smartphones and pretty much everything savvy urbanites require to function in this day and age. Lumine department store caters for elegant and fashion-forward ladies (brands include Alexander Wang, Tomorrowland and Marc by Marc Jacobs) while Hankyu Men’s focuses on the Tokyo dandy (and is one of only two department stores in Tokyo providing fashion solely for men). If you’re a fashionable gent then the likes of Comme des Garcons, Junya Watanabe, Undercover and Thom Browne will have you reaching for your gold card in no time. The area also plays host to the Muji flagship store, which incorporates a restaurant and an outpost of the Loft stationery shop. Muji is the go-to brand for the low-key and toned-down yet stylish Tokyoite.
Famed Architecture and a Brand-New Theater
The Rafael Vinoly-designed Tokyo International Forum is an architectural gem nestled between Yurakucho and Tokyo stations. Serving as an exhibition, conference and arts center, the space is huge and looms over Yurakucho and surrounding areas. Visitors are free to have a peek around and marvel at its magnitude and brilliance. For those with a deeper interest in the arts, the brand-new Alternative Theatre will be up your street. The wholly renovated venue will host cutting-edge, non-verbal shows by leading performers. Its inaugural show, Alata, plays until the end of August and is a futuristic, action-packed samurai tale.
Photographs by Stephan Jarvis