Daikanyama: the Trendy Globalized Residential District


Nowadays, when people are asked to talk about Tōkyō or try to imagine it, one of the first thing that comes to mind is the scramble crossing in front of the Shibuya station Hachiko exit. People from all directions wait for the green light to go over careful not to obstruct and not be hampered by the direction of the other, scared to be lost like ants which get confused if an obstacle comes in front of them. Probably this is the best image to describe the chaotic nature of a city in constant motion. But Tokyo is also the city of contrasts and contradictions, where every little space has its uniqueness and charm.   DSC_8799

Just 10 minutes by walk from the eccentric Shibuya, leaving behind the Yamanote line route, there is a town where you can forget the city noise, letting time flows slowly without any regret: Daikanyama, literally the “local administrator’s mountain”.

Surrounded by the stations of Shibuya, Ebisu and Nakameguro like the embrace of a strong father, as a modern area were the word “oshare” (“trendy” in Japanese) is an imperative in term of fashion, cafes, design and art, it is not easy to image an ancient history that goes from the Jōmon era (ca 11000 BCE-ca 300 BCE). During that period, where now  stands the hypermodern Tōkyō there was a very intricate bay and the area of Shibuya was nothing more than sea, while in Daikanyama’s one there was the land where people started to live in[1].

Besides some Kofun (ancient round burial mount) gathered on western Shibuya Hill, Sarugaku-chō, there aren’t many other evidences about other eras but according to Fujimori Takashi, the Daikanyama City Council Officer, during the Edo period Daikanyama was a rural area located in suburbs of the old Edo[2]. Thanks to the samurai, who start to live there from the Meiji period, the area could grow rapidly also in economic terms. With the construction of the station and the first apartments built with concrete in Japan both occurred from 1927, it became residential center for people who co-worked in order to let bloom the new aspect of Daikanyama’s culture.

Walking through the main huge streets, Hachiman-dōri or Kyu Yamate-dōri, you can feel more and more freedom of spaces and sounds. The atmosphere changes at each step: leaving behind the deafening noises of the running life of millions of “ants” and looking at the architectures mainly made of wood and glass, the surrounding space opens to reveal a field full of “butterflies”. Quiet and elegant, different in colors and shapes, they fly gracefully from flower to flower, unable to decide which is better. Perhaps the (cherry blossoms) for the smallest, or the (sunflower)along the slight Daikanyama hill before trying the for those full of life. Probably the best place for a leisured break is the “ivy’s room”, better known as Tsutaya (“tsuta” means “ivy”) bookstoreDSC_8820

Whether it is real or made in words, nature is essential for the life of its inhabitants, for the most part young couples or families, where children can grow up in the tranquility and lushness of the forest before climbing skyscrapers. Harmony and balance are not only visible in spaces and buildings but also in people relationships.

In the streets close to Hillside Terrace (a complex of 14 buildings along Kyu Yamate-dōri completed in 1969 after 30 years of works), it is common to encounter foreigners walking sure of their way while chatting with friends a step back to their children who play happily in the wide spaces between a shop and another. As stated by Kengo Asakura, a descendant of the warriors’ Asakura Family that governed the area from the end of Edo period, “since the area around Hillside Terrace has strict restrictions, there has not been any unnecessary developments for money making purposes. Instead, it still is a very connected community and residents and merchants have personal relationships”[3].  DSC_8785

A place where the glass walls of the buildings reflect the sunlight, irradiating the streets as a kaleidoscope of colors, a garden where there is space to bloom not only for flowers but also for ideas and moral values, where art is a lifestyle and time is not in a hurry: all of this is around the corner.


[1] Nakazawa Shinichi, Earth diver, Kodansha, Tokyo, 2005 (from the website “Daikanyama T-Site”, https://tsite.jp/daikanyama/about/history.html, last consultation on 15th July 2015).

[2] Shibuya City Tourism Association Inc. Foundation website, “Daikanyama press&map vol. 3, December 2012”,

http://www.shibuyakukanko.jp/mappdf/mappdf/daikanyama_english.pdf (last consultation on July 15th 2015).

[3] Shibuya City Tourism Association Inc. Foundation website, “Daikanyama press&map vol. 3, December 2012”,

http://www.shibuyakukanko.jp/mappdf/mappdf/daikanyama_english.pdf (last consultation on July 15th 2015).