Omotesando at Night
Few areas of Tokyo are as famous as Omotesando, the 1100m long street leading up to the huge Meiji Grand Shrine. Officially Omotesando street is known as Route 413 but in common use the name refers to the street and the immediate surroundings. The Omotesando Boulevad begins in Minato Ward but ends in Shibuya Ward. Since Omotesando is quite possibly the most fashionable address in Japan shops will use the name even if they are not on the street itself. The street is home to several high brand flagship stores and to have a shop on Omotesando is generally regarded as the ultimate in the Asian fashion world. Naturally, the rents here are astronomical.
In a country of ancients Omotesando itself is a mere baby, having been inaugurated in 1919 together with the Meiji Grand Shrine. The boulevard is lined by zelkova trees, 163 of them, all but 11 of which were planted in 1950 to replace the ones that perished in the American air raids 1944-1945. The prewar trees are marked out with special plaques if you are interested in some serious tree spotting (look for them near Omotesando Hills)! The alignment of the street is calculated to correspond perfectly with the winter solstice. On that morning, the sun will rise exactly above the street. Up until 2003 there were also a few buildings left from the first western style public housing project in Japan, the Dojunkai council houses. Most of them survived the war but very little remain today. I remember the absolute contrast in architecural style (as well as pricing in rents!) from the old concrete council estate on the right side of the street and the massive luxury brand stores on the right! After the war, and during the Korean war, a large US Air Force Base (Washington Heights, of which today there is only one building left) was housed in nearby Yoyogi and Omotesando prospered as a shopping street. The area became even more famous during the 1964 Tokyo olympics and in 1972 the subway station on the other end, Meijijingumae Station, opened (Omotesando station opened in 1938).
Since 2009 Omotesando has been illuminated during December, giving extra strength to the nickname of “the Champs Aliases of Tokyo”. I’ll blog about the illuminations later this week!
You can use the tag “Omotesando” to see all posts about this area.