Post: Tuesday November 26, 2013
Your Ultimate Expat Guide To Roppongi
Roppongi, which means "six trees" in English, is found in Minato, Tokyo. It is known as the most popular enclave for expats in Japan and with that kind of residency, you can expect Roppongi to cater to expat needs and almost all of their heart's desires.
The six zelkova trees that defined the area no longer exist after 3 were cleared and the other 3 were destroyed during WWII. Since the last 1880s, Roppongi was known as the place to go to enjoy an active nightlife. Historically, non-Japanese lived here after WWII and there were a few U.S. military installations that were established in the area. Not long after, foreign embassies began setting up their diplomatic offices in Roppongi and the entertainment scene blossomed with the heavy influx of foreign workers and diplomats.
Some of the buildings that mark Roppongi transition to cosmopolitan modernity are the Izumi Garden Tower (2003), the Roppongi Hills (2002), the Tokyo Midtown (2006), and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (2006). The construction of the National Art Center, the Mori Art Museum, and the Suntory Museum of Art which form the "art triangle" stamped Roppongi as a cultural center for Japan completing the overall portrait of the area as ideal for expats and foreign visitors.
Some of the global names that have set up shop in Roppongi are Google, Yahoo!, Ferrari, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, and Lenovo.
Expat housing in Roppongi is characterized as cosmopolitan and trendy compared to other areas in Tokyo. For foreign families, there are international schools, excellent medical facilities, English-speaking doctors, nurses, sales people, teachers, workers, and police and government authorities. The most common options are residences, hotels, serviced apartments, or high rise complexes.
· Rent is higher for places that are more recently built, and closer to the city center, train stations, and commercial and business districts
· Rent is usually paid one month in advance and does not include the initial start-up costs of the Kanrihi (maintenance fee), reikin (non-refundable key money), shikikin (deposit), agent’s fee, insurance, etc.
There are several luxurious, convenient choices for expat housing. PLAZA HOMES is one of the global companies that offer expat housing. It has been in the real estate business (rentals and buy & sell of property) since the late 1960s. It helps you find perfect housing for your needs and offers bilingual services. Its office is located at 9-12, Azabudai 1-chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0041.
Another housing option is the Roppongi Hills Residences. There are 5 Roppongi Hills Residences conveniently called Roppongi Hills Resident Towers A, B, C, and D. The fifth is the 15-floor Roppongi Hills Gate Tower Residence. All buildings were completed in 2003 except for the fifth building, which was completed in 2001. The buildings are earthquake-proof with emergency generators, emergency water wells and emergency supply storage. They also have a variety of services from spa, pool, front desk, garden, video intercom, Jacuzzi, sauna, fitness room, and proximity to top medical, business, commercial, and financial establishments.
After work, before work or during weekends and holidays, Roppongi is a vibrant metropolis offering a variety of activities and entertainment options.
Located near the Hibiya and Oedo line, Roppongi stations, Roppongi Hills is an entertainment and shopping center. At the center is the Mori Tower which has an amazing observation deck with a 360 degree view of the city. Aside from the usual mish-mash of shops and restaurants are the Mori Art Museum, the Mori Garden, and the Mori Urban Institute for the Future.
Roppongi Hills has a good cinema called Toho Cinemas where most of movies play in English with Japanese subtitles. It is also known for hosting movie premieres and of being friendly to foreigners. They offer regular discounts, and English-speaking guide to show you how to use the ticket machines and when you buy food from the concessionaires, they give it to you in a tray which you can attach to your seat.
Accessible from Nogisaka and Roppongi stations, Tokyo Midtown is another part of Roppongi where one can go shopping and dining out. The tallest building in Tokyo is found here, the Ritz Carlton which is a hotel but also offers residences for long-staying guests. Compared to Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Midtown is more lush with greenery, more relaxing with less concrete, and is newer having opened its doors just 5 years ago. It also has Midtown Hinokicho Park, Fujifilm Square, and the Suntory Museum of Art.
There are hundreds of stores in Roppongi selling high end fashion brands to electronics, art, knick knacks, liquor, and groceries. Roppongi Hill is a high end mall that is easy to find.
A mega shopping complex is the Roppongi Hills which is made of 2 buildings which has been described as a “giant spider.” It has everything an expat would need including restaurants, shops, theater, mini gardens, hotel, secure parking, and a viewing deck. Shops are open from 11 in the morning to 9 at night while restaurants stay open up to 11:00 p.m. The complex is never closed on holidays and all major credit cards are accepted. A mini trivia about this complex is that the lower floor restaurants and bars are more affordable than those located in the higher floors.
Tokyo Midtown is the other shopping haven made of 6 buildings. The shops are open from 11 am to 11 pm while restaurants are open from 11 am to 12 midnight, some closing after midnight. One of the buildings is known as the Galleria which has 12 duty-free shops. The Midtown Tower has a post office and all buildings offer concierge services. Most Tokyo Midtown stores accept credit cards but not traveler checks.
Gyms and Fitness Centers
Roppongi would be incomplete without gyms and fitness centers. Two of the top places to go in Roppongi are Club 360 and Esforta Fitness Club. Club 360 was the brain child of 2 expats, Sam Gilbert, a physiotherapist, and Nathan Schmid, a personal trainer. It is located at Cma3 Building B1.3-1-35 Motoazabu and offers kickboxing, core, cardio, boxing, karate for kids, and even massage aside from the physiotherapy and personal training classes. They accept non-members although members get certain privileges like discounts and free workshops.
Esforta Fitness Club in Izumi Garden Terraces in Roppongi offers family memberships, corporate, and personal memberships. You can pay monthly, or annually. There are other types of memberships like Day Plus, Morning, Night, Esthe, Time Use, Regular, and Platinum. They offer gym, aerobics, fitness, sauna, pool, studio, and parking for all its members.
Food and Restaurants
Roppongi is a non-stop food trip with all kinds of cuisine available like Indian, French, Italian, American, Indonesian, Chinese, and of course, Japanese. One of the top sushi restaurants in the area is Roppongi Fukuzushi.
Fukuzushi has been around since 1917 and is a family restaurant. They have been given the title of “best sushi” by many expats. It can be hard to find it on your first try because it’s located in an obscure side street but it is worth a visit.
If you want a touch of the familiar, Roppongi has restaurants and bars that ring like home such as:
Hard Rock Café – The restaurant stays open daily up to 2am except for Fridays and Saturdays, which closes at 4 am.
TGI Fridays Roppongi – Located at Roppongi Plaza, Minato-ku. If you visit their local website, download and print a 10% off discount coupon and present it before ordering.
Outback Steakhouse Roppongi – Outback has been in Japan since the year 2000 and has around 8 branches across the country. The Roppongi branch is on the 2nd floor of the Roppongi Food Gate ROCMON and reservations are highly recommended. They are open daily but close from 3pm to 5 pm then remain open up to midnight.
Cinnabon – The first Cinnabon closed down in 2009 but it reopened in 2012 in Roppongi Hills.
Cold Stone Creamery – This has been around since 2005 and can cost as high as 1,000 yen for combination creations.
Almond – Located in the main Roppongi intersection, this store was completely demolished and rebuilt in 2010. It currently is known as the best coffee/ice cream/cake shop in Tokyo. It is open daily from 9 am to 5 am although closes at 3 pm on Sundays.
Other great places to go for food are Jumanji 55, Chinese Café Eight, Super Deluxe Club, Ryugin, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, the Oak Door, Roti Roppongi, Honmura An, Bourbon Street, and Pizzeria 1830.
Nightlife in Roppongi
There is no end to the bars, nightclubs, strip joints, dive bars, karaoke clubs, restaurants, discos, live shows, and party places in Roppongi. In fact, you have a choice of intimate, rowdy, wild, elegant, or romantic or you can base your choice on the kind of entertainment. Some bars have nightly tournaments, live shows, special buffets, exhibitions, pageants, and art festivals to draw in the crowd.
The Hub Roppongi – This British pub opened in 1980 and is home away from home for many expats. You can find it at the Haiyuza Building in Minato ward and reservations are highly recommended because there are only 58 seats. Happy hour is from 5 to 7 pm and credit cards are not accepted.
The Muse – Basically the hang-out for western expats since guests from the Middle East and South Asia are not common. It has a cover charge of 3,000 yen (Fridays and Saturdays) or 2,000 yen (rest of the week), which comes with 2 free drinks, offers dance floors, VIP rooms, billiards, table tennis, and karaoke.
Fortunately, as long as you take the normal precautions when you go out at night, you should be safe. The Japanese are not violent people even when intoxicated. It would take something extraordinary to get them heated and angry.
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