The Tokyo Metropolis is home to over 38 million people and it is one of the largest and most crowded urban areas in the world. In a city this size, there is no way you will be able to experience everything it has to offer in one trip or even in a lifetime. Your best bet is to select a few key districts that offer a slice of Japanese life.
There is none better than the commercial and entertainment neighborhood of Yūrakuchō, located in the heart of the city.
Tokyo is the metropolis that keeps on giving. No matter whether it’s your first time in Japan’s largest city or your tenth, there are countless places to explore.
Why not make your way down to the Yurakucho District and immerse yourself in what this enthralling pocket of Tokyo has to offer?
What is the Yūrakuchō District?
The Yūrakuchō (有楽町) District is a bustling commercial and entertainment precinct that offers everything from restaurants, movie theatres, and high-end fashion houses to upmarket hotels like The Peninsula Tokyo.
You will find it close to the center of Tokyo, located between the upmarket shopping of Ginza and the tranquillity of Tokyo Metropolitan Hibiya Park.
One of Tokyo’s most-visited landmarks, the Imperial Palace, lies immediately to the northwest.
Although it boasts all of the glamorous offerings of its nearby Ginza district, Yūrakuchō has a more homespun, traditional, and relaxed feel to make your time there even better.
Its landmarks include:
- DN Tower 21
- Yūrakuchō Center Building (Yūrakuchō Mullion)
- Tokyo International Forum
What is the history of Yūrakuchō District?
Yūrakuchō District traces its history back to 1707 and the Tokugawa shogunate which established the office of one of the magistrates of Edo (machi-bugyō) here.
The name comes from the powerful Japanese magnate (daimyo) called Oda Nagamasu, who lived between 1548 and 1622 and was widely known as Yūraku (有楽).
He built a mansion near the Sukiya-Bashi Gate of Edo Castle, which today is part of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.
How do I get to the Yurakucho District?
Located in central Tokyo, you can get to Yūrakuchō from Yūrakuchō Station. It is just one stop from Tokyo Station along the JR Yamanote Line and you can also get to it on the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line and the Yurakucho Subway Line.
The District is also a short walk from nearby Ginza Station, which you can get to on the Marunouchi and Hibiya Subway lines, and Hibiya Station on the Hibiya Subway line.
What can I experience while exploring Yūrakuchō District?
There are countless things to do and experiences to be had in the Yūrakuchō district. Here are some of the most popular ways to undertake the best that it has to offer:
Explore Yūrakuchō Mullion (the Yūrakuchō Center Building)
With a wealth of department stores, places to eat, shops, and cinemas scattered across its 14 stories, Yūrakuchō Mullion is most popular with Tokyo’s younger set who come to the shops to keep up with the latest fashion trends.
You can even access free wifi at Hanky’ Men’s Tokyo if you show your passport.
Tip: make sure you visit the Mullion Musical clock, which is a well-liked spot where locals meet up with friends or go on a romantic date.
Grab a delicious bite to eat in a traditional Tokyo Gado Shida
If Yūrakuchō has a defining attraction, it is its thriving and lively restaurant district. It evolved and grew organically under the elevated train tracks of the JR Yamanote Line.
In a city where no square foot can go to waste, restaurants located under railway lines are known as Gado Shita, which translates to ‘under the girders’.
Loved by locals, business people, and tourists alike, these cramped but lively restaurants and drinking spots often sprawl onto the street with simple plastic chairs and crates.
If you’re keen to experience everything that Yūrakuchō’s Gado Shita have to offer, you’ll find around 600 feet (200 hundred meters) of premises both north and south of Yūrakuchō Station.
If you follow them, you’ll make your way as far as the neighboring district of Marunouchi District and JR Tokyo Station.
Take a break and grab a beer
If you’re exploring Yūrakuchō on foot, you’re likely to get tired and need a break. Why not take a load off and enjoy a refreshing beverage at one of the casual Gado Shita drinking spots, German-style beer halls, or even a classy French wine bar?
Make sure you head towards the north-western side of Yūrakuchō Station for the more upmarket locations.
Tip: If you feel the ground shake and fittings rattle while you’re there, don’t worry. It’s not likely an earthquake but a train rattling as it speeds overhead.
Explore everything the Tokyo International Forum has to offer
Located within sight of Yūrakuchō Station, the Tokyo International Forum is technically located within neighboring Marunouchi district but it is widely considered to be part of Yūrakuchō’s business district.
The Tokyo International Forum is a multi-purpose exhibition center located in one of the district’s most impressive buildings.
Designed by architect Rafael Viñoly and opened in 1996, it looks like an elongated boat made from curved steel and glass.
If, like many of Tokyo’s locals, you’re a fan of all things electronic, why not visit one of Tokyo’s largest Bic Camera stores? With eight floors to explore, you are sure to find a technological marvel that you can buy to impress your friends back home.
It is also home to the Oedo Antique Market (Japan’s largest outdoor market) and the Mitsuo Aida Museum, which features displays of the works of Mitsuo Aida (one of Japan’s most celebrated poets and calligraphers).
Tip: The Tokyo International forum hosts a range of international events year-round, so be sure to check what’s on offer when you’re visiting Tokyo.
How do I make my way around Yūrakuchō District?
Let your feet do the walking
Once you’ve arrived, walking is a great way to explore the Yūrakuchō district.
Not only will you be able to marvel at the modern architecture from the ground, but it’s the best way to experience the atmosphere of the Gado Shita.
Let a local guide you on a tour
There are several fascinating and fun tours that take you through parts of Yūrakuchō, as well as neighboring districts. These two are for those of you who want to learn more about Tokyo’s most popular alcoholic beverages:
- The Tokyo Insider Sake Tasking Walking tour starts in Ginza district and makes its way through Yūrakuchō to Yūrakuchō Station. In this 2-hour tour, you experience the best that Tokyo’s sake culture has to offer.
- The Tokyo Craft Beer Pairing ; Tasting Tour guides you through Tokyo’s craft-beer scene for three hours. You’ll get to drink at several bars throughout the Shinbashi, Ginza, and Yūrakuchō districts.
What is the best time to visit?
Although the district is full of people throughout the year, the Gado Shida restaurant district is livelier during the warmer months when the tables and chairs are placed outside.
Is there anything else I need to know?
If you want to continue exploring beyond Yūrakuchō District, there’s plenty to see and do. Here are some of the most popular attractions: