These days, Akasaka (赤坂) usually refers to an entirely different place -- namely one of Tokyo's central business districts, full of corporate headquarters and expensive hotels catering to their visitors. The Akasaka Prince Hotel and Hotel New Otani, in particular, are some of Tokyo's best known. 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.

At night, however, the other half of Akasaka comes to life: the blocks bounded by Sotobori-doori (外堀通り) and Itsunoki-doori (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... you name it, you'll probably find it.

The great thing about working in Akasaka is thus that you have a near-endless selection of places for lunch. No matter how high their prices go in the evening -- and you really do have to hunt for a place that will serve you a full meal for under ¥10000 later in the day -- all these restaurants offer excellent lunch menus for ¥1000 or so. During the 6 months we worked in Akasaka, a colleague and I made an effort to eat lunch at a different restaurant every day, and we barely made a dent in the list of options.

Things to See

Probably the only actual sight in Akasaka is the Hie Shrine (日枝神社), 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. Once a year, the shrine holds the rather modest Sanno Matsuri (山王祭) festival, featuring the usual panoply of music, dancing, yatai stalls and sake.

Getting There

Akasaka-Mitsuke station on the Eidan Ginza and Marunouchi subway lines is at the edge of Akasaka. The station is connected by a handy, if rather long, tunnel to Nagatacho station on the Namboku, Hanzomon and Yurakucho lines.