• Japan In Focus

Old Tokyo Building Becomes a Hub for Various Regions in Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The eatery at the top floor used to be a revolving restaurant.

The Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan building, built almost 60 years ago in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, still maintains the atmosphere of the Showa era (1926-1989) despite repeated renovations.

As you leave the central exit of JR Yurakucho Station, you are greeted by a deck jutting into the square in front of the station bearing the name of the building written in silver. Inside, mosaic walls stretch from the first to the third floor of the staircase.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mosaic walls stretch from the first to the third floors of the staircase at the Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan. The walls were created by Rokuro Yabashi (1905-1988), a painter from Gifu Prefecture.

In the postwar period, there was a wooden office building in front of the station to house the Tokyo metropolitan government’s transportation bureau. There was also an area called the Sushiya Yokocho alley, which was lined with sushi restaurants, yakitori bars and more.

The Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan building was built there in 1965 as part of a redevelopment project. The name of the building comes from the fact that the bureau of transportation, or “kotsu,” was relocated to its fifth through eighth floors at the time. Some of the stores in the Yokocho alley also moved in, so the building still houses some old-style establishments today.

One of them is Tonkatsu Akebono, a restaurant specializing in pork cutlets, on the first basement floor. It originally opened in the Sushiya Yokocho in 1962.

The restaurant is known for its crisp tonkatsu as well as tastes and prices which have not changed for many years.

Bunzo Nakamura, 52, the second-generation owner of Tonkatsu Akebono, said, “The Kaikan is like my second hometown. It’s sad to see the restaurants around us change, but we plan to keep going all the same.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tonkatsu Akebono, one of the most popular restaurants in the building

The Kaikan had the nickname “Tokyo New Center” and a booklet made to celebrate the completion of the building said it was to “become a ‘city center’ within a city center.” It boasted cutting-edge features such as a revolving observatory restaurant on the 15th floor of the building.

The building is now surrounded by taller constructions and the restaurant stopped revolving about three years ago. Although it no longer has the image of being “a city center within a city center,” it has increased its presence as a hub of various regions of Japan in recent years.

It is home to the Furusato Kaiki Shien Center, a facility that offers consultation services for those considering relocation to rural areas. The center also hosts events related to other prefectures. A total of 13 stores that promote prefectures and cities through local food or other specialty products are located in the Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan building.

Hideki Takayama, manager of the Akita Furusatokan, a shop showcasing products from Akita Prefecture, said, “I hope many people will visit us to learn about the charms of Akita.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Sake, kiritampo (hollow rice sticks) hot pot sets and other products of Akita Prefecture are available at the Akita Furusatokan.

One cannot help but wonder how the Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan, offering a variety of charms — including the nostalgia of the Showa period and the warmth of various regions — will change in the future.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan

Address: 2-10-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

Access: A 1-minute walk from JR Yurakucho Station. A 1- to 8-minute walk from seven stations on six subway lines.

Memo: Closed on Jan. 1.