Despite the area’s evocative name and long history (Toranomon means “Tiger Gate” and marked one of the crossing points into Edo Castle), modern Toranomon is mostly a bland office district offering very little of interest to either visitors or locals. If you have the misfortune of being stuck in the area, your best bet is to head to any of the surrounding neighborhoods, which are much more interesting. Alternatively, you can ignore the skyscrapers and visit some of Toranomon’s hidden treasures.

Atago Shrine

Atago Shrine is a small shrine atop a hill between Toranmon and Shinbashi. From the Shinbashi side, there are some extremely steep, vertigo-inducing steps that lead to the shrine. If the steps are too intimidating, there are some gentler approaches to the shrine as well.

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Atago Shrine
The imposing stairs to the shrine | Photo by iStock.com/kuremo

There is a superstition that conquering the steps will bring success. So much so in fact that they are known as Shussei no Ishiden—the stone staircase of success.

At the top there are lots of shady trees and a pleasant pond next to the main shrine building with colorful koi carp.



Okura Museum of Art

Located on the grounds of the Okura Hotel, this is Tokyo’s oldest private museum. Surrounding the museum are beautiful examples of Chinese Qing and Ming dynasty bronzes and Korean Joseon dynasty stone sculptures collected by the first two generations of the industrialist Okura family.

Admission to the museum is ¥1,000. The second-floor veranda is one of the building highlights.

2nd floor of the Okura Museum veranda
2nd floor of the Okura Museum veranda | Photo by Gregory Lane

The Okura Tokyo

We’re not suggesting you stay here, unless you’re traveling on a super-generous expense account, but just wandering around this place is an experience. Sadly, the iconic 1960s Hotel Okura was demolished in 2015. Happily, the original architect’s son worked on the interior of the new Okura, incorporating many of the design elements of the original. The lobby is open to the public, so you can wander around and enjoy the ambience, even if you don’t plan to stay there.

The Okura Lounge
The Okura Lounge | Photo by Gregory Lane

Edo Castle Outer Moat Underground Museum

There is a road that skirts the Toranomon neighborhood called Sotobori-dori Avenue. Sotobori means “outer moat”. As Tokyo modernized, the moats were filled in and roads and buildings were constructed on top. Around the Toranomon area, nothing remains of the moat except for a few remnants of the walls next to Toranomon Station. On some of the boulders, dating back to the construction of the moat in the 17th century, the marks of the feudal lords who donated the rocks are still visible.

Things to Do in Toranomon - Edo Castle Moat
The moat wall section at the Ministry of Education | Photo by Gregory Lane

Toranomon Koffee

Things to Do in Toranomon - cafe
Photo by Gregory Lane

Although we said we were going to avoid the skyscrapers, we’ve made an exception for Toranomon Koffee, located in Toranomon Hills. Toranomon Koffee is actually the spiritual successor to the legendary Omotesando Koffee, which no longer exists in Omotesando—or Tokyo (the originator of Omotesando Koffee opened Koffee Mameya on the former location, but it isn’t a café). There are “Omotesando Koffee” branches in Hong Kong, Singapore and London, but the closest to the original that remains in Tokyo is actually Toranomon Koffee. If you’ve visited any of their branches around the world, you’ll be familiar with the design and the baristas in lab coats.

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