ROPPONGI, Introduction

Audio File length: 2.33
English / USA Language: English / USA

Hi, my name’s Scott, and I’m your personal guide. Along with MyWoWo, I’d like to welcome you to one of the Wonders of the World: Roppongi.

Roppongi is the most futuristic neighborhood in Tokyo, and the center of the city’s nightlife.

The literal meaning of the name "Roppongi", which appears to date to 1660, is "six trees”. This may be a reference to the six very old Zelkova (Japanese elm) trees that were originally used to mark the boundaries of the area: the first three were cleared over the years, and the remaining three were destroyed during the Second World War. According to another theory, the name might derive from the fact that during the Edo Period, six daimyōs, or feudal lords, lived in the vicinity, each of whose names included the character for “tree”.

The neighborhood was not densely populated until 1890, when the Third Imperial Guard of the Japanese army was transferred here. The arrival of the soldiers boosted the prosperity of the neighborhood, and helped turn it into an area with a lively nightlife, with the establishment of numerous bars and clubs that survived both the Great Kantō earthquake in 1923 and the bombing raids of the Second World War. After the war, the US soldiers remained, and restaurants, billiard halls, bars and brothels sprang up in the area around the military installations. They were aimed primarily at US army personnel, but were also frequented by Japanese. This made the Roppongi neighborhood the most popular area in the city with foreigners, and it has remained so today, because many embassies are also located here.

From the late 1960s, the neighborhood became popular for its discos and venues featuring Western music; today you’ll find bars, nightclubs, strip clubs, restaurants and cabarets, which often host performances by foreign artists. They are popular with both Japanese and foreign businessmen, as well as the staff of the many embassies in the area.

Roppongi received a major boost in 2003, with the completion of the Izumi Garden Tower and the skyscrapers of Roppongi Hills, which I’ll be telling you about in the next file.  


An interesting fact: the clubs and bars in Roppongi used to be infamous for being run and frequented by members of the Yakuza, the famous Japanese mafia. Don’t worry though, because the Yakuza appears to have shifted its interest to other neighborhoods in Tokyo…

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