From contemporary izakaya and Spanish wine bars to burger joints and Michelin starred French restaurants, Ebisu (恵比寿) is one of the best spots in Tokyo to dine out. Ebisu is split into two main areas: the commercial district outside the West Exit, and Yebisu Garden Place to the south of the station.
The side streets of near the West Exit of JR Ebisu Station are where you will find the restaurants and bars that make the area so appealing. There is a good mix of cuisines and prices to suit all palettes and budgets. Be sure to make the slight detour to Ebisu Shrine as you wander the side streets. Ebisu Yokocho, an indoor alley of restaurants popular with both tourists and locals, is also a short walk from the station.
Yebisu Garden Place
Yebisu Garden Place offers a more refined side of Ebisu, and contains several attractions including the Yebisu Beer Museum and Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. The small plaza area often hosts some food-related event, and Yebisu Garden Place Tower—the high-rise building on the right-hand side of the plaza—has restaurants on the upper floors which provide a good view of the city.
The History of Ebisu
Despite being one of the more upmarket areas of Tokyo, Ebisu’s heritage very much lies in the drink of the masses: beer. In the late 19th century the Japan Beer Brewery Company started brewing Yebisu Beer on the farmlands around the area (at the time Ebisu was an undeveloped area of Tokyo). The station opened in 1901 as a freight terminal for the beer factory, and five years later passenger trains also began to use the line (and the station took the name of the beer). Yebisu Garden Place stands on the ground that was once the brewery of Japan Beer Brewery Company (now Sapporo Brewery).
Incidentally, Yebisu (or more commonly, Ebisu) is the god of fishermen and luck—one of the Seven Gods of Fortune—and his statue can be found outside the station (West Exit), as well as on the golden beer cans of Yebisu beer. The reason we add the ‘Y’ in English is because in the 16th century when Portuguese missionaries first arrived in Japan, they wrote the syllable “e” as “ye” in their studies of the language, and it has since stuck for certain names (hence why we say “yen” in English for the currency and not “en”, which is the correct pronunciation in Japanese).
Things to Do
Opened in 2008, this indoor alley of twenty restaurants and bars might not have the authentic appeal of other yokocho in the capital, but it is nevertheless a fun and friendly place with a very lively atmosphere.
Museum dedicated to the beer that gave Ebisu its name. The 40-minute tour which takes you through the history of the brand is recommended, as is the “Tasting Salon” where you can try the many different types of Yebisu beer.
Tokyo’s main photography museum has a permanent display of over 25,000 photographs from Japan and abroad, temporary exhibitions, as well as a section which looks at the history of optics and photography.