Japan’s answer to Wall Street, Nihonbashi’s Kabutocho has been the beating heart of Tokyo’s financial district since the Meiji era. It’s probably not unfair to say, though, that this heart has been beating at a slightly slower pace over the last few decades: while Japan enjoyed its position as a financial powerhouse during the economic boom of the 1980s, the mid-90s onwards saw a slump in the country’s economic output, that has continued into the present day.

In recent years, though, the Heiwa Real Estate company has been working to inject new life into the area. While Kabutocho was formerly the preserve of wilted salarymen, the revitalization project, which began in 2017, has breathed an air of youthful vigor into this little concrete jungle. Chockablock with trendy eateries, buzzy workspaces and a plethora of mouthwatering patisseries, it’s the perfect place to spend a day in Tokyo.

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Bank to the Future

Although Kabutocho has enjoyed a significant facelift, it remains at its core a financial hub. Every morning, the daily stock figures are displayed on a giant revolving cubic screen in the lobby to Kabuto One, ushering in armies of financiers beginning their days. You can also go and visit the Tokyo Stock Exchange building, the monolithic home of the Japan Exchange Group and a surprisingly popular photo spot for passersby. 

In a city where demolition is all too common, the project’s deft renovation of extant buildings feels refreshing, and allows the area to stay true to its roots. Boutique hotel K5, for example, is a former 1920s bank, completely transformed into an elegant, trendy space with 20 rooms and numerous dining and drinking options.

The Bank Kabutocho complex also nods playfully to the building’s history: Bakery Bank, Bistro Yen, and Coffeeshop & Bar Coin can all be found here. Sample sumptuous pastries on the ground floor. Try the award-winning hand-drip coffee at Coin just a floor below. The aroma of coffee here is also delicately imbued with a floral fragrance: tucked around the corner, bouquets are draped from the ceiling, and overspill bountifully on the tables of flower shop Fete.

Kabutocho’s Standout Eateries

K5 is not the only new business to make use of an old location. Opened in 2021, the ice cream and chocolate shop Teal can be found on the first floor of the Nisshokan, the former residence of Eiichi Shibusawa, the “father of Japanese capitalism,” and the face of the ¥10,000 bill as of July 2024. Sample fruit parfaits topped with fig and peach in the summer months, or indulge in festively flavored Christmas cakes come wintertime.

Just opposite from the Bank is Kabeat, a light and airy eatery open for both lunch and dinner. Led by a team of six chefs, referred to as “Taste Creators,” the menu hosts a variety of different cuisines, including Japanese, Italian and American. The team behind Kabeat prides itself on its relationship with the farmers who supply the ingredients, from Miyazaki Prefecture to Hokkaido’s Assabu.

On sunny days, visitors can enjoy coffee with a slice of homemade cake on the terrace of Knag, the coffee shop just next door, basking in the sunlight that dapples the concrete streets. This is also a great place to work remotely, and, when you’ve finished for the day, you can reward yourself with an extraordinarily reasonable glass of wine, sake or craft beer for just ¥300.

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A Moment of Calm

There’s more to Kabutocho, though, than top-of-the-range wining-and-dining. Just a brief walk from the Stock Exchange is Hie Shrine Nihonbashi Sessha, a subsidiary shrine of Akasaka’s Hie Shrine dedicated to financial prosperity and economic growth. What’s unusual about this shrine is the posture of the komainu – the lion-dogs that guard the entrance to Shinto shrines. While these trusty guardians are usually steadfast in their gaze, the Kabutocho komainu are positioned with their necks craned towards the sky. If you visit the shrine, rub the paws of the komainu to ensure your good luck.

Around the corner is Sakamotocho Park, Tokyo’s first community park, first opened in 1889. Although the space was nearly destroyed by the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, and again during World War II bombings, a sense of community has remained, and was revitalized further with the 2016 reconstruction. Soundtracked by a chorus of laughter from the neighboring pre-school playground, visitors can eat bento-box lunches, or doze in the open space on the tatami mats available to borrow.

Whether you need a delicious and affordable lunch spot, want to sample Japan’s specialty craft beer in trendy location, or simply wish to walk in the dress shoes of a salaryman for the day, Kabutocho is the perfect place to experience Tokyo.

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