Akasaka (赤坂) is one of Tokyo's central business districts, full of corporate headquarters and expensive hotels. The area is directly adjacent to Nagatacho, one of Tokyo's prime concentrations of bureaucracy, and only a stone's throw from the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda.
Akasaka-Mitsuke station on the Metro Ginza and Marunouchi subway lines is at the northeastern edge of Akasaka. The station is connected by a handy, if rather long, tunnel to Nagatacho station on the Namboku, Hanzomon and Yurakucho lines. Tameike-Sanno (Namboku/Ginza) is also in the area and a good access point for Hitotsugi-dori, the main thoroughfare through the Akasaka district.
Travelers from Narita Airport can take the Keisei Skyliner to Ueno, then transfer to the Ginza subway line (¥2,110, 90 min.), or add 15 minutes but lower the cost to ¥1,190 by taking the limited express instead of the Skyliner. The Narita Express isn't cost-effective unless you hold a rail pass, in which case you can travel to Tokyo Station and change for the Marunouchi line (85 min. total), paying only the subway fare of ¥160. Haneda Airport passengers can take the Keikyu line to Shimbashi, changing there for the Ginza line (¥720, 40 min.).
The Airport Limousine Bus makes convenient hourly runs (sometimes twice an hour) between Narita and major hotels in Akasaka (¥3,000, approx. 80-120 minutes).
In 2007, Akasaka Sacas opened to great fanfare. Much like the nearby competing Roppongi Hills or Tokyo Midtown, Akasaka Sacas is made up of Akasaka Biz Tower, chock-full of eateries and several shops, Akasaka BLITZ and ACT Theatre, and of course the iconic TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) building.
- Hie Shrine (日枝神社 Hie Jinja) (Located on the opposite side of the Imperial garden; a five minute walk from Kokkai-gijidō-mae station on the Metro Chiyoda line), ☎ +81 3-3581-2471. Another prominent shrine in Tokyo. Located atop a little hill at the edge of the area. Reached by a steep flight of stairs under a veritable tunnel of orange torii, the shrine grounds are an oasis of tranquility in the middle of Tokyo and, in good weather, a popular place for a lunchtime picnic. The Sanno Matsuri (山王祭) festival it hosts in June is counted among the 3 Great festival of Tokyo, featuring the usual panoply of music, dancing, yatai stalls and sake.
- Sumitomo Collection (Sen-oku Hakuko kan), 1-5-1 Roppongi, ☎ +81-3-5777-8600, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10:00-17:00, closed on Mondays. Since the 19th century, the Sumitomo family has collected art objects, such as bronzes, ustensils and paintings, mostly from Japan and China. 520¥, 310¥ for students, free for children under 15.
- National Theatre of Japan (国立劇場 Kokuritsu Gekijō) (walking distance from either Hanzomon or Nagatacho stations of the Metro Hanzomon lines et. al.), ☎ +81 3-3265-7411. For those interested in theatre arts, the Kokuritsu Gekijyo holds performances in traditional arts ranging from Kabuki, Noh drama, Bunraku puppet theatre, etc. You may want to check the schedule and make a reservation beforehand.
- National Diet Building (国会議事堂). Housing Japan's bicameral legislature, it was built in the 1920s. The most recognizable symbol of the Japanese government, it was built from Japanese building materials, features a pyramidal roof and is surrounded with green areas. The nearby free Kensei Kinenkan (between the Diet and the water) has a nice view on it, and tons of political artefacts to satisfy those interested in Japanese politics.
Eat & Drink
At night corporate Akasaka loosens its tie and comes to life: the blocks bounded by Sotobori-dori (外堀通り) and Hitotsugi-dori (一ッ木通り) are packed full of expensive restaurants and nightclubs, second only to the Ginza in swankiness. Both Japanese and international cuisine are very well represented, with places like Tenichi for tempura and Shabuzen for shabu-shabu, and others representing Indonesian, French, Mexican, Russian, Indian, Italian cuisines... If you name it, you'll probably find it.
Most restaurants cater mostly to the expense account set and are correspondingly expensive at dinner time (¥10000 and up is not uncommon). The best deals in Akasaka are therefore at lunch, since no matter how high their prices go in the evening, all these restaurants offer excellent lunch menus for ¥1000 or so.
- Ninja Akasaka, 2-14-3 Nagata-cho, Akasaka Tokyu Hotel Plaza 1F, ☎ +81 3-5157-3936. The entrance is a little difficult to find, but what do you expect from a restaurant designed like a hidden ninja fortress? Navigate through dark corridors, over bridges and trap doors to your hidden room, where ninja waiters attend to your needs while performing tricks and illusions. The food is delicious as well as being presented in unique ways that are sure to entertain. Pre-set menus (usually 7-10 courses) run anywhere from ¥7,000 up to ¥20,000, but items can also be ordered a-la-carte. Rated one of the must-see dining experiences in Tokyo by several websites.
Akasaka's hotels are all in the business/luxury category and charge a bit of a premium for their location.
- InterContinental Ana Tokyo, 1-12-33 Akasaka Tokyo 107-0052, Japan (Between the Tameike-Sanno and Roppongi Ichome subway stations), ☎ +81 3-35051111. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12PM. An international hotel and all staff can speak English. The rooms are a decent size compared to most American hotels. There is also a limousine bus connecting the ANA Hotel to Narita Airport - it takes approximately two hours and is available to both guests of the hotel and people with other accommodations.
- Hotel New Otani, 4-1 Kioicho, ☎ +81 3-3265-1111. The flagship of the New Otani chain, worth a visit just for the gorgeous gardens alone. It's a bit of a hike to the nearest subway station though. Rack rates for singles at ¥26,500 and up.