Affordable Living in Central Tokyo
Along the Yamanote line, which defines the inner circle of central Tokyo, are the cities of Ebisu, Meguro, and Gotanda. These major areas are very well situated on the edge of central Tokyo and just far enough away from the usual “Gaijin” (foreigner) “ghetto”, yet still a very short commute to all business districts (within minutes from Hiroo, Roppongi, and Kamiyacho). They are also places just out from these prime central locations where you can get more spacious apartments and homes for your money. It used to be that the areas of Meguro and Gotanda were favored only by more established foreign residents of Tokyo, but nowadays it seems that even newcomers are attracted to some of the charming residential neighborhoods, with parks, recreational centers, and a slightly more suburban feel.
A Brief History
Near the end of the 19th century the city that is now very well known as Ebisu was actually a quiet town called Mitamura. In a country that has really developed a taste for beer, it was a brewery that put Ebisu on the map. The name “Ebisu” originated from “Yebisu” – one of Japan’s most popular brands of beer. Yebisu was originally a part the Sapporo Beer Company but definitively made a name for its’ self soon after establishing its’ brewery in Mitamura (now Ebisu) in 1889. The town grew with the popularity of its beer, and soon after, the company built Ebisu Station to facilitate the distribution of mass quantities of beer. Consequently,
it was the beer that gave the station, and then later the town of Ebisu, its name, and not the other way around. The beer brewery was moved to Chiba in 1988, and the original site and surrounding area were transformed into Yebisu Garden Place which opened as an attraction to the public in October of 1994.
The development and popularity of Meguro was due in part to the racetrack which existed on the western grounds of Meguro from 1907 to 1933. The racetrack was moved further west to “Fuchu” as Tokyo expanded and today only the MotoKeba, (former racetrack) bus stop remains. However, in the days of the racetrack, Meguro Street was packed with spectators and horse race enthusiasts. Meguro Street was paved with wooden blocks creating a route for horse-drawn carriages to pick up high profile patrons of the races; wealthy businessmen, politicians, and high-ranking officers from neighboring Chojamaru, Shirokane, and Mita.
Kami-Osaki – Chojamaru
In the 17th century, neighborhoods in and around Kami-Osaki were home to Feudal lords from the various provinces. They were required to spend half of each year in Tokyo (Edo at the time), under the supervision of the Shogun. These lords built stately mansions and estates making the area that is now Shirogane and Kami-Osaki, into one of Japan’s first upscale suburbs. In 1928, Yoshiro Yoshida developed Chojamaru, (meaning area of wealth), just north of Kami-Osaki 2–Chome, into what is now one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in central Tokyo.
Yebisu Garden Place
Yebisu Garden Place, which opened in October 1994 on the former site of the Yebisu brewery, is a pleasant city within the city. It houses about a dozen buildings and skyscrapers, a large selection of restaurants and shops, a Mitsukoshi department store, the Westin Tokyo hotel, offices, residential space, and two museums. The Yebisu Beer Museum commemorates the original brewery, has permanent exhibitions about the history and science of beer brewing in Japan, and offers beer tasting. In the central square between buildings, there is a courtyard exhibition space with scenic trees and fountains on both sides, which certainly gives the area a park-like feel.