If you’re looking for a stylish place to shop, try traditional Japanese or international restaurants, or have a few drinks, Tokyo’s Roppongi district has it all.
The central Tokyo district of Roppongi has an infamous reputation. Most people know it as the nightlife and expat area, where you can rub elbows with American military guys, Russian exotic dancers and European tourists in a lurid netherworld of sleazy pick up joints, strip clubs, and the like. But tourists to Tokyo may be misled by their guidebooks and talk of Roppongi’s shady past.
Shop in Style
Lately Roppongi’s reputation has started to become rehabilitated. With the opening of Roppongi Hills (the ultra modern shopping complex complete with a multitude of shops, a cinema, art museum, restaurants, bars, and a hotel) and more recently Tokyo Midtown (another shopping complex that is the new ‘it’ spot with Tokyo’s in-crowd), Roppongi is emerging as a fashionable and dynamic place to be.
Nowadays Roppongi’s offerings are as diverse as its residents (it being one of the few vaguely multi-cultural areas of Japan). One can find designer shops to 100 yen (about 0.90 USD) stores. You can see world famous artwork or go to a strip club. There are traditional Japanese experiences like onsen (hot springs) and manju (Japanese pastries) shops to the ubiquitous drinking and karaoke joints catering to foreign clientele.
Dining for All Tastes
But where Roppongi really stands out is in terms of its dining options. Perhaps nowhere else in Japan can you find the range of cuisines available. It would be impossible to list them all. You can find traditional soba (buckwheat noodle) restaurants, izakaya (Japanese pubs), and fine Japanese cuisine for those with a big budget. You can also splurge on fine dining options ranging from French to Indian. In fact, just about any nationality is represented, from a cute Swedish bistro to Mexican, Thai, British pub food and a wide range of American chain restaurants (McDonalds, Subway, TGI Fridays, Wolfgang Puck and Outback) for those wanting a taste of comfort food.
So, visitors to Tokyo definitely should not overlook Roppongi. While the sleaze is still in your face and off-putting at times, it truly is something special. And in an increasingly globalizing world, it is perhaps the new face of Tokyo. So when tourists have finished seeing the temples, watching an hour of kabuki, going to museums, or strolling through a Japanese garden, it would be amiss not to at least get a taste for what may be the city’s future.
How to Find It
Take the Hibya or Oedo Tokyo Metro lines and get off at Roppongi station. Tokyo Midtown and Roppongi Hills both have their own exits (follow the yellow signs, the majority are in English). For the main drag, exit at Roppongi crossing. Then just start wandering toward the lights and people. You’re bound to stumble on something interesting.