Roppongi (六本木 roppongi) is a district of Minato Ward, Tokyo, Japan, famous as home to the rich Roppongi Hills area, an active night club scene, and a relatively large presence of Western tourists and expatriates, though the vast majority of visitors and residents are Japanese. It is in the southern portion of the circle described by the Yamanote Line, south of Akasaka and north of Azabu.
The name "Roppongi," which appears to have been coined around 1660, literally means "six trees." Legend has it that the name comes from the fact that six daimyo lived nearby during the Edo period, each with the kanji character for "tree" or a kind of tree in their names. Roppongi was not extensively populated until after the Meiji Restoration, although the area was trafficked for centuries and served as the site of the cremation of Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada's wife in 1626.
In 1890, the Third Imperial Guard of the Imperial Japanese Army was moved to a site near Roppongi (now home to the Pacific bureau of Stars and Stripes). The influx of soldiers led to the area's rise as a nightlife district, briefly interrupted by the Great Kanto Earthquake which flattened the area in 1923. Roppongi was administratively part of Azabu Ward from 1878 to 1947.
After World War II, during which the area was again destroyed, the United States Army moved in, beginning Roppongi's reputation as a foreigner neighborhood. Several large US military installations were located in the nearby area, with Hardy Barracks probably the most significant. In large part due to the US military presence, the area soon became crowded with Western-oriented shops, bars, restaurants, prostitution establishments and "hostess bars."
Starting in the late 1960's, Roppongi became popular among Japanese and foreigners alike for its disco scene, which attracted many of Tokyo's entertainment elites. Contributing to the international scene was the location of several foreign embassies and foreign corporate offices in the Roppongi area. However, many dance clubs shut down in the recession following the market crash of 1989.
The Roppongi area received a major economic boost in 2002-2003 when the Izumi Garden Tower and the Roppongi Hills high-rise complexes were completed. These projects brought high-end office and condominium space to Roppongi for the first time.
Nightlife in Roppongi
The area features numerous bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and other forms of entertainment including hostess clubs and cabarets. Among the Western expatriate community, it tends to be favored by business people and financial workers as well as off-duty military.
In the past, Roppongi had a reputation as an area with high Yakuza presence, whether as customers at Roppongi establishments, conducting business, or managing or owning clubs and bars in the area. However, although still exerting some influence in Roppongi, in recent times they appear to have shifted much of their presence to other districts in the Tokyo area. Many establishments in Roppongi are now owned by Chinese and black Africans.
Rail and Subway Stations
- Roppongi Station (Hibiya Line(H-04) & Toei Oedo Line) (E-23)
- Roppongi-itchome Station (Namboku Line)