Small alleyways of tiny izayaka (居酒屋) and eateries situated a block or two away from train stations, yokocho can be found in many districts in Tokyo. From 6pm to sunrise, yokochos offer a relaxing venue for drinks and snacks after work. We knew it would be chaotic, cramped, noisy, and messy, but we loved to have a yokocho (橫丁) experience during our Tokyo stay. We picked Ebisu Yokocho, a popular indoor alleyway just a block away from Ebisu Station. Since 1998, Ebisu Yokocho has successfully converted the declining Yamashita shopping centre into a popular venue for food and drinks. Just like other yokocho, eateries in Ebisu Yokocho serve different Japanese cuisine, from sashimi to yakitori. As soon as we entered the covered alleyway, we were overwhelmed by the smell of cigarette, sake and grilled meat in the air. Entering from the relatively dark and empty street, the warm and crowded yokocho felt like a completely different world. We were lucky to find a table available at one of the eateries. The food wasn’t as cheap as we thought, but the experience of enjoying beer and small dishes of Japanese food in a crowded alleyway was pretty interesting.
The main street entrance of Ebisu Yokocho is just a block away from Ebisu Station (恵比寿駅).
It was about 20:00 when we arrived at Ebisu Yokocho. It was still early in the night but the place was already quite packed.
Most visitors were locals, but there were also some foreign tourists enjoying the local cuisine and sake. There is however no English menu at the eateries and most staff don’t speak English.
Most yokochos in Tokyo are outdoor. Ebisu Yokocho on the other hand was established in the former Yamashita Shopping Centre.
Many visitors seemed to be groups of colleagues having a break after work.
The yokocho was cramped and noisy, but the atmosphere was energetic and fun.
There are two other entrances from side streets into Ebisu Yokocho.
Slot window and a wall mural illustrating the floor plan of Ebisu Yokocho.
Colourful neon signage of the eateries.
A man walked by the colourful side entrance of Ebisu Yokocho.
On the second day, we decided to stay close to the area around Shibuya. We hopped on the Yamanote Line and went one stop over to Ebisu (恵比寿). Known as the God of Fishermen and Luck, Ebisu is a popular divinity in Japanese mythology. It was then used by Japan Beer Brewery Company to come up with the brand of Yebisu Beer back in 1890. Established their production facilities near Meguro, Yebisu Beer is one of the oldest beer brand in Japan. In the modern era, the train station and the surrounding community was named after the brewery as Ebisu. In 1988, the beer brewery were moved to a new location. The original brewery site at Ebisu was then transformed into a commercial complex consisted of office towers, retail, and museums known as the Yebisu Garden Place. The Western architectural style create a unique atmosphere, attracting young couples and the local community to dine, shop and relax.
Many tourists go to Yebisu Garden Place to visit the Museum of Yebisu Beer. We came specifically to visit Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (TOP Museum). Opened in 1995, the museum is known as the only public museum in Japan dedicated to photography. The museum has recently gone through two years of extensive renovations. Three wall display of world famous photographs marked the museum entrance at the end of a colonnade. Three exhibitions were on and we opted to see them all. The first one was “20 Year Anniversary TOP Collection: Scrolling Through Heisei Part 1”, a selection of works taken by Japanese photographers during the present Heisei era (平成). The second was Museum Bhavan by Dayanita Singh, a renowned female photographer who captures the various faces and colours of the magnificently complicated Indian society. The third was World Press Photo 17, the annual award event to compliment a selection of works by the world’s photojournalists in the past year.
The Yebisu Garden Place offers a lot of pleasant public spaces for the community of Ebisu.
Two traditional red brick buildings mark the entrance plaza of Yebisu Garden Place.
Many people arrived at Yebisu Garden Place about the same time as we did, probably going to work.
We arrived at Yebisu Garden Place in the morning at around 9am. We had breakfast at one of the cafe near the entrance of Yebisu Garden Place.
The interior of the cafe was causal and sleek.
Across from the cafe, the Yebisu Beer Museum offers visitors a glimpse of the history of Japanese beer. While a Mitsukoshi department store occupies the opposite side of the entrance square.
A barrel vault atrium and a gentle ramp frame the central axis of Yebisu Garden Place, with the Chateau Restaurant Joël Robuchon at the terminus.
We then walked under the canopy to the airy Central Square.
The design of Yebisu Garden Place is dominated by classical layout and axial arrangement.
Classical architectural elements include the colonnades that appear in a number of locations in the complex.
At the Central Square, there were benches painted with playful patterns that marked the 20th anniversary of the complex.
Yebisu Garden Place is frequented with locals. We saw a few who came dressed in traditional garments.
The Chateau Restaurant Joël Robuchon is a famous luxurious venue in the area of Ebisu.
Our main reason coming to Yebisu Garden Place was the TOP Museum (Tokyo Photographic Art Museum), formerly known as the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.
The entrance colonnade of the TOP Museum offers visitors a pleasant approach.
Shōji Ueda (植田正治)’s Sand Dune and My Wife III (妻のいる砂丘風景III) , an iconic Robert Capa’s D-Day shots, and Robert Doisneau’s Le baiser de l’hotel de ville (Kiss by the Hotel de Ville) provide a dramatic setting for the museum entrance.
We stayed at the museum for about two hours, seeing three exhibitions including “20 Year Anniversary TOP Collection: Scrolling Through Heisei Part 1”, Dayanita Singh’s Museum Bhavan, and World Press Photo 17. The TOP Museum is a fantastic cultural institution for anyone who love photography. It offers temporary exhibitions on four levels of museum spaces.
Often regarded as the Brooklyn of Tokyo, the highly fashionable and pleasant Daikanyama (代官山) is much more than just an affluent urban neighborhood. Just a short walk south of the world’s busiest intersection Shibuya (渋谷) crossing, Daikanyama is a totally different world: Sleek cafes or sleepy bistros with a few tables, stylish boutiques and intimate denim shops housed in traditional timber houses, lovely design, camera and music shops, and the exquisite T Site, the flagship bookstore by Tsutaya Books. A brief stroll in Daikanyama shall make one to contemplate on the way of living and the question on what’s the most desirable lifestyle one possible lead.
From Ebisu (恵比寿) Station, we found our way into a series of lanes heading towards Daikanyama (代官山).
We weren’t in a hurry and preferred to wander in the quiet residential streets. With its bohemian atmosphere, Daikanyama (代官山) is a great place to visit on foot.
In this affluent neighborhood, some of the houses and shops are interestingly designed according to the character of the owner. Judging from the exterior appearance of the architecture, one might make a fine guess on what kind of person the owner could be.
The neighborhood is sleepy, clean, quiet and relaxing. We finally made our way back out to the beautiful Kyu Yamate Dori (旧山手通り), a tree lined avenue dotted with greenery, boutiques and foreign embassies.
Buildings along Kyu Yamate Dori (旧山手通り) are quite low key. This highly reflective building facade introduces the colour palette from the blue sky and white clouds.
Some owner prefers to dress up the ild building with street art.
The Kyu Yamate Dori (旧山手通り) is a full of lush green vegetation.
Full of pleasant courtyards and atmospheric cafe, Hillside Terrace (ヒルサイドテラス) is an intimate shopping complex off the Kyu Yamate Dori (旧山手通り).
Maison Kitsune, a fashion boutique with the Parisian mood, occupies a former timber house.
We loved Okura (オクラ), a intimate boutique selling various kinds of clothing and denim made from traditional dyeing process.
Tenoha Daikanyama is a cool courtyard complex with a fantastic lifestyle shop, Italian restaurant and bar, and an Italian cafe.
All shops and restaurants at Tenoha open out to the central courtyard where visitors can enjoy the sun in a garden setting.
The Italian restaurant has a large open kitchen and a proper pizza oven, and big windows out to the central courtyard.
Another interesting retail cluster in Daikanyama is Logroad. Logroad is a 220m pathway of shops and restaurants converted from a former railway track.
The scale at Log Road is intimate. The entire place is relaxing as if arriving at a wooden cottage away from the city.
Greenery is everywhere in Log Road. There aren’t too many shops, but the atmosphere is quite laid back.
The architecture is boxes cladded with vertical timber sidings.
The path of Log Road extends out to a roof terrace at one end, overlooking the surrounding residential neighborhood.
There are enough greenery and public furniture at Log Road to offer an intimate garden setting for most visitors.