Tokyo Station - - Dutch Side Gets A Facelift, And Unusual Ramen

Lisa's In and Around Tokyo: TOKYO STATION--Dutch side gets a facelift, and unusual ramen

When I first encountered the kanji "yae," I couldn't fathom what "eight heavies" could mean. Then it dawned on me that it means eightfold, like the cherry blossom. How poetic!

Oh, and my favorite karaoke song, "Midare Gami" by Hibari Misora, uses the kanji in a touching, heartfelt way: "In the spring my obi goes around my body twice, but in the autumn thrice." No metabolic syndrome here.

With this realization in tow, I had assumed that the Yaesu side of Tokyo Station (opposite the classic brick Marunouchi side) had some flowery, aesthetic story behind its name.

Well, I was about as wrong as wrong can be.

Would you believe that it’s not even Japanese? Yaesu is named after a Dutch guy, Jan Joosten, who came to Japan in the year 1600 and initially got on the good side of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the last shogunate in Japan.

Joosten served as Ieyasu’s adviser on diplomacy and trade and was granted a fine pad near the area known today as Yaesu.

His name got shortened to Yayosu, and then Yaesu. Who would have thought! Japanese place names are often full of intriguing little facts.

After being under construction for what seemed like forever, the Yaesu Exit has been refashioned into a sleek, modern strip consisting of a state-of-the-art ground transportation hub and a city within a train station.

Tokyo Station is now called "Ekimachi," or Tokyo Station City, and it boasts of having everything and more than a regular city: shopping, food, art, entertainment, you name it.

There’s a big, airy, covered-but-outdoor area on the second level aptly called the Gran Roof (note the missing "d"). Delightful events are held here: jazz sessions, tea ceremony, dance classes and more.

Early this year, I was part of a team that helped create a small garden of indigenous Japanese grasses on the roof. Talk about an eclectic lineup of offerings!

The station lies on historically significant grounds, and corridor names like Kitamachi Dining are named after a magistrate’s office from the area. As I nibbled on tasty oden stew at Rakan, I imagined dark-colored walls that may have once adorned the space that now is Kurobei Yokocho.

I had the most unusual vegetarian ramen at Soranoiro Nippon, one of the shops inside the famous Ramen Street. There’s a razor-thin line between what constitutes ramen and what doesn’t. If you’re open-minded about your noodles, and you have herbivorous leanings, it will be an experience for you to consider.


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This article by Lisa Vogt, a Washington-born and Tokyo-based photographer, originally appeared in the October 1 issue of Asahi Weekly. It is part of the series "Lisa’s In and Around Tokyo," which depicts the capital and its surroundings through the perspective of the author, a professor at Meiji University.