Back to Contents of Issue: April 2006

A guide to foreign companies' favorite areas in Minato-ku.

by Dylan Robertson

Minato-ku has the largest concentration of both foreign firms and Grade-A office building stock in Tokyo; over 5.5 million sq. meters of leased office space, which is about a quarter of all office space in Tokyo. Minato-ku, one of Tokyo's 23 wards (ku), has an international flavor due to its being host to 49 embassies and many foreign institutions. This issue we take a look at the areas popular as office locations for foreign companies in Minato-ku.

Stars and Stripes
West of the government office district of Nagatacho, Akasaka is a multiple-market zone, known as an entertainment district with upscale hotel and residential properties and large office projects. It includes the Akasaka Palace, State Guest House, and surrounding gardens, TBS radio and television studios, Ark Hills complex, and the US Embassy.

Akasaka's first major redevelopment project was Ark Hills. Based on Minoru Mori's concept of "a city within a city," Ark Hills made its debut in 1986 as Japan's first large-scale urban redevelopment project by the private sector. This project, the culmination of 17 years of negotiations with the original landowners, launched Mori Building Company into urban development. The main tower, Ark Mori Building, meets the needs of global businesses. Ark Towers offers the location, specifications, and services of a luxury rental apartment building. Other facilities include the Tokyo ANA Hotel and Suntory Hall, Japan's preeminent concert hall. The complex offers a high-level fusion of the various functions of a city— indeed, a city within a city. The complex brings people together through events in the Karajan Plaza, a gardening club, and more. Along with the growth of the avenue's cherry and redwood trees, indigenous birds and butterflies have returned to this urban neighborhood.

Inside Ark Hills is the ANA Hotel Tokyo, which typifies the ziggurat-atrium style architecture popular from the mid-‘80s. The reception floor, with its two-story fountain, is clad in enough marble to have depleted an entire quarry. The interior designers have made skillful use of artwork and furnishings to complement the modernism. Guest rooms are airy and spacious. The Astral Lounge on the top (37th) floor affords a superb view of the city. The hotel is a short walk from the US Embassy.

Completed in February 2005 was Akasaka InterCity. The finish reminds one more of a luxury hotel than an office building. This is partly because of the striking effect of the orange-colored terracotta tiles used on the exterior. With over 1,800 sq. meters per floor of office space, it is popular with international corporations. On the second floor, there is a pond and foliage enclosed by Himalayan cedars. The upper floors house the Homat Viscount luxury residential apartments. The lobby on the 16th floor has grand windows that allow one to look down on a traditional Japanese garden. The 29th floor has a sky lounge, greenery and a gymnasium where residents can work out while enjoying the panoramic view. Being located next to the US Embassy means that security in the area doesn't get any tighter.

Tower of the Hill Gang
A cosmopolitan atmosphere, a multinational selection of cuisine, and a raft of nightspots make Roppongi one of the trendiest places in Japan. Roppongi is rapidly evolving, largely owing to the transformative vision of Minoru Mori, who names architect Le Corbusier as a major influence.

Roppongi Hills, one of Japan's largest integrated property developments, opened on April 23, 2003. Built by Mori Building Company, the complex incorporates office space, apartments, shops, restaurants, cafés, movie theaters, a museum, a Grand Hyatt hotel, the Asahi TV studios, an outdoor amphitheater, and parks. The centerpiece is the 54-story Roppongi Hills Mori Tower. As with his earlier development, Ark Hills, Minoru Mori built an integrated development where high-rise inner-urban communities allow people to live, work, play, and shop in close proximity to eliminate commuting, improve quality of life, and boost Japan's international competitiveness. The complex is built on a 109,000 sq. meter site that amalgamated more than 400 smaller lots Mori acquired over 17 years.

The jewel in the crown of Roppongi, the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower quickly became the place for IT heavyweights such as Yahoo! Japan, Rakuten and Livedoor. Their executives, known for being young, moneyed, and brash, came to be called the hiruzu zoku, or "hill gang."

Minoru Mori has not yet finished his transformation of Roppongi. His company recently acquired the entire Roppongi 5-chome area including the tract on which sits the famous ROI Building and the Hard Rock Café.

Home of the "Suit Tribe"
Toranomon is the home of the "suitsuzoku," or suit tribe, office workers in the current idiom. This office district appeals to companies in image-conscious service businesses such as consulting, law, investment and finance. Adjacent to the Kasumigaseki government district, it is a strong demand area. As for access, it is a 10-minute stroll from JR Shinbashi Station. Subway access is available via Toranomon Station (Ginza Line) and Kamiyacho Station (Hibiya Line).

The area, together with neighboring Atago, offers a mix of office buildings for businesses of all budgets. It includes prestigious buildings popular with international corporations such as Atago Green Hills Mori Tower—a mixed-use area redevelopment designed by award-winning architect Cesar Pelli—and Holland Hills Mori Tower, a collaboration between Mori Building and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Bureau of Water-works to develop unused space around the Shiba Waterworks, adjacent to the Dutch Embassy.

Toranomon is also the location of the 857-room Okura, one of Japan's most famous hotels. The Okura opened just before the 1964 Olympics, when Japan was a mystery and its customs and language made the city outside the hotel doors impenetrable. So, the Okura set out to provide the comforts of home while offering the feel of Japan, including rooms with tatami mats. The odd-numbered rooms overlook a small Japanese garden. The hotel is noted for its service—the origami crane on your bed, the comfortable cotton kimonos, and the almost military salutes of the bellhops.

Across the street from the US Embassy, the Okura has long been a favorite of such members of the suit tribe as diplomats, politicians, and businessmen.

Symbol of economic recovery
Shiodome Shiosite is one of the newest cities within the city. Its spectacular skyscrapers accommodate many offices, the headquarters of Nippon Television, and the Conrad Tokyo Hotel and Royal Park Hotel.

One of those skyscrapers is the 51-story Caretta Shiodome, the headquarters of Dentsu, Japan's leading advertising company. Floors not occupied by Dentsu accommodate a musical theater, an advertising museum and the "sky restaurants" on the building's top floors.

Another of the area's landmark buildings is the Nippon Television Tower (Nittele Tower), the headquarters of Nippon Television, a private nationwide television network. A shop with goods related to NTV's personalities and programs and several restaurants are found there.

Superb access to the Shinkansen and Narita Airport makes this area popular with a variety of foreign corporations, including Calyon, FedEx Kinkos, and Prologis. That access is superb should come as no surprise; rail service from Shinbashi dates back to October 14, 1872, when a train chugged southward from Shinbashi Station for Yokohama. Today a full-scale replica of the original Shinbashi Station nestles between glass office towers and a snazzy Porsche showroom at the entrance to the Shiodome City Center.

The mother of all railways
Shinagawa Station was completed in June 1872. Today, in addition to a wealth of retail and entertainment, Shinagawa offers access to the JR East network including the Shinkansen, Airport Express, and Yamanote Line (looping around central Tokyo). It is regarded as a strategic location for companies that need rapid access to Yokohama, and Narita and Haneda airports.

Konan, a former warehouse district on the station's east, has been redeveloped as a major business district. There are not so many mid-sized buildings; the office stock here tends to be either small lower-grade buildings or large, newly completed towers with direct undercover station access.

An example is Shinagawa InterCity, a giant three-tower complex offering spectacular views of the city and bay. Its four wings include an event hall, shops and restaurants, gallery, clinic, bank and post office.

Another is the Shinagawa Mitsubishi Building, which was acquired by a Morgan Stanley affiliate from Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsubishi Motors for JPY140 billion. It offers plenty of common area for use as collaboration space. Visitors can see the latest Mitsubishi cars in the second-floor showroom, while major events are held in the 500-seat Mitsubishi Motors Hall on the third floor. The fourth floor houses a multifunctional event hall.

In Takanawa, on the other side of the station, are several major hotels.

One is the Le Meridien Pacific Tokyo, which sits on the former grounds of an Imperial Family estate. The hotel gears much of its marketing effort toward booking banquets, wedding receptions, conventions, and tour groups. Rooms are comfortable and the entire back wall of the ground-floor lounge is glass, the better to contemplate a Japanese garden, sculpted with rocks and waterfalls.

Another five-star hotel is the Shinagawa Prince, which, with its many diversions, resembles a resort getaway. Its four gleaming white buildings each have their own check-in. It is Japan's largest hotel, with more than a dozen food and beverage outlets, a 10-screen cinema complex, and a large sports center including nine indoor tennis courts, an 80-lane bowling center, and an indoor golf practice center. It caters to businessmen on weekdays and to students and families on weekends and holidays. Rooms vary widely depending on the building.

The location of a business speaks loudly to customers and staff. A location choice is not easily changed once you have committed yourself to it. Choose carefully, with the needs of your customers and staff in mind.

Dylan Robertson
Senior Associate, CBRE Consulting
CBRE Japan K.K.
Tel. +81-3-6230-1141
Email: dylan.robertson@cbre.co.jp
Website: www.cbre.co.jp

Dylan Robertson is one of the leading bilingual consultants advising major international occupiers and investors in the Japanese real estate market.

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