Tokyo/Roppongi

Roppongi Hills Mori Tower

Roppongi (六本木) is a section of Tokyo's Minato ward famous for its nightlife, much of which is geared at foreigners. It is also a major daytime attraction, with two massive shopping and dining complexes, and various museums.

The area around Roppongi to the south and west is known as Azabu (麻布). These districts are generally quieter than Roppongi but have also absorbed some of its vibrant commercial activity and nightlife.

Understand

"Roppongi" literally means "six trees", as six very old and large trees used to mark the area centuries ago. Nothing remains from this period, as the area was destroyed by the great 1923 earthquake, and then by World War II bombings.

Driven by the presence of the Japanese (and then American) military, nightlife has been thriving since the 19th century. Since 1960, the disco scene has attracted all party-goers, Japanese and foreigners alike. Even though "Roppongi" is still synonym of "clubbing", the area has become the trendy place for large corporations to have their headquarters: Google, Apple, Yahoo, Goldman Sachs, and even The Pokemon Company. To accommodate this growth, three office/entertainment skyscrapers have been built in the last decade.

Roppongi is the most cosmopolitan place in Japan, with the highest concentration of embassies, consulates and foreign residents, making it a must-see multicultural melting-pot like nowhere else in the country. Roppongi is also a modern art hub. Despite the frenzy, Roppongi has many peaceful green areas, and still is home to many local residents, so don't hesitate to explore the back alleys, you will find small parks, temples, and local life going on.

Get in

By train

The Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line (grey, H04) spans from South-West Tokyo to the North-East, via Ebisu, Ginza, Akihabara and Ueno.

The Toei Ōedo Line (purple, E23) makes a large "6" shape around Tokyo, it is the best way to come from Shinjuku or Yoyogi.

By bus

Until about 9pm, you can catch an eastbound Toei public bus anywhere along Roppongi-dori (which runs beneath an easy to spot elevated highway), starting at Shibuya station. Mention to the driver you'd like to get off at Roppongi just in case.

By foot

From Shibuya, you can walk east to Roppongi in about 40 minutes via Roppongi-dori, which you might enjoy it if you like walking along elevated highways. In the daytime, you can jump on one of the frequent buses that travel along this road.

Perhaps more interesting is the walk west from the Imperial Palace, which takes about twice as long, but features a view of the Diet Building, some nice parks and other interesting architecture.

Alternatively, take a 10-15 minute walk from Tameike-Sannō (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, orange, G06), Roppongi-Itchōme (Tokyo Metro Namboku Line, blue-green, N05), or Nogizaka (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, green, N05). As these stations are all located in different areas, best to check a map before setting out.

A nice idea could be to get off at Azabu-jūban (Namboku Line or Ōedo Line), enjoy tea or dinner in the main shopping area (exit 4, Azabu-jūban station), before walking North to Roppongi at night (10 minutes).

See

The National Art Center

Some of the attractions listed bellow are officially located in Akasaka, but it is more practical to include them in a visit on Roppongi.

Roppongi Hills

Tokyo Midtown

Do

Have a break at Mohri Garden, in front of TV Asahi

Events & Festivals

Buy

Shopping in Roppongi Hills

Eat

Not surprisingly, Roppongi has a plethora of international restaurants, and generally some of the best restaurants in Tokyo (though some research is needed to find them.)

Below budget? Lunch boxes can be found in any of the many convenience stores for around ¥400, and there are several supermarkets in the area:

Budget

Turkish   doner kebab shops. and other fast-foods are popular for people getting out of clubs, but there are numerous healthier yet affordable options. Unlike more expensive restaurants, these usually have the same prices for lunch and dinner.

Mid-range

In Roppongi Hills:

Around Roppongi Crossing:

In Nishi-Azabu:

In Azabu-Juban:

Splurge

Drink

Party time in Propaganda

Roppongi is the place to be (late) at night, although you might expect to encounter some non-Japanese street promoters, urging you to just take a free look in their strip clubs, and occasionally trying to shake your hand. The scene continues late into the night, and many bars, clubs, and discos are open until 4–5AM when the first trains run in the morning.

There are innumerable watering holes, and generally speaking, first floor and ground floor establishments cater to young adults and foreigners while higher stories feature more exclusive clubs aimed at slightly older Japanese males. An ID is required by many clubs, so bring along your passport. Note that many of the clubs are very small, and leaving and re-entering without paying the entry charge again is often not possible.

Beware of touts inviting you into clip joints, some of which will go so far as to spike your drinks to wring you dry. Avoid going to a bar you've never heard of with someone that you didn't know before your journey. Leave your credit cards at home, since in a bid to combat fraud an increasing number of bars accept only cash anyway.

Bars for drinking

These bars are perfect for those who came to enjoy the taste of beer rather than for dancing.

Bars for partying

These bars are open all night, and dancing is the norm. Usually entrance is free but drinks can be more expensive than in real clubs.

Clubs

Gaien Higashi street

Most of the clubs are in the Gaien Higashi street, at the right of subway exit 3.

Sleep

Tokyo Midtown, on top of which is Tokyo's priciest hotel

Sleeping is probably the last thing on your mind when here. There are plenty of places to hang out between the last train and the first one in the morning, but not surprisingly, very few of them are inexpensive.

Note that if you are a foreigner, then all hotels will require your actual passport in order to make a photocopy. These are all legitimate hotels, not love hotels. So if you find yourself needing a love hotel, your best bet is to take a cab to Shibuya.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Touts see you coming

Roppongi has, by Japanese standards, a slightly dangerous reputation and even makes it onto the US Department of State's Consular Information Sheet , probably mostly for lack of anything else to warn about. The main hazard is drunken fights, which should be steered clear of, as standard operating procedure for the police is to grab everybody in the vicinity and lock them up until things are sorted out, which may take some time. Some petty theft also occurs in crowded bars and clubs. In case of problem or for lost/stolen items, a police station can be found easily at the Roppongi Crossing.

While that is the general perception of Roppongi, it is far less dangerous than the other major areas that cater to foreigners in Asia. It is not even the most dangerous place in Tokyo in terms of clubs hustling customers: that distinction goes to Kabukicho and its Yakuza-owned hostess bars. Remember that, even if Roppongi is slightly dangerous by Japanese standards, Japanese crime standards are very different than those in much of the world. Roppongi is very safe, as long as you are not there during an earthquake. Many young women walk on the street alone late at night in complete comfort. The main danger is to your wallet.

Be wary of hustlers on the streets, who will often try to talk foreigners into going to hideously overpriced gentleman's bars or clubs – the extent of the overpricing may not even be apparent until you get the bill at 5:00AM. They can be quite persistent, especially if they think you might be in the military, but don't get angry or even speak with them: they will leave you alone after 10 seconds if you just keep walking and ignore them completely. Some clip joints send foreign female confederates into other bars to pick up clueless-looking targets, and some have been known to spike your drink and then ravage your credit card while you're out cold. If you want to escape Roppongi with your wallet intact, stick to places with a sizable crowd, and don't bring your credit card, as many places don't accept them anyway. Never go to a gentleman's bar suggested by someone you just met, and as usual, don't leave your drinks unattended.

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