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Japan's internationalization starts from Minato-ku! Easy world tour

There are currently around 140 embassies in Japan, more than half of which are in Minato-ku. The reason why there are so many in this one area dates back to the opening up of Japan.

Many foreign diplomatic establishments seeking diplomatic relations became necessary in Japan, when the "Sakōku" isolation was ended with the Treaty between Japan and the US of 1854. There were four foreign liaison offices at first, the United States in Zenfukuji, the United Kingdom in Tozenji, France in Jejuji and the Netherlands in Saijoji, all of them located in the present Minato-ku. It is said to be because Minato-ku had many temples with status, and that it was close to Yokohama and Edo Castle. In addition, gathering in one place also had the merit of security, and sites of mansions confiscated from former Daimyo families after the Meiji period were also offered up for use by these foreign diplomatic establishments.

The reason that so many embassies are still here today is based on this historical background. There are few buildings that remain just as they are when they opened, due to relocation or remodeling, but you can feel a little bit of the atmosphere of that country in each embassy. Why not go on a trip around the world in Minato-ku!

French Embassy - One of the first legations, from Mita to Minami Azabu

One of the first legations was France, which was first established in Saikaiji Temple of Mita in 1859, and the consulate established later in 1861.
It was in this area until 1874, and the monument of the first French ambassador's residence still remains on the premises of the current Saikaiji Temple.

The current location for the French Embassy in Minami-Azabu was built in 2009, and the new building is characterized by a modern sophisticated appearance with a birdlike arch. Although it is not open to the public, some of the gardens remain as they were in the Tokugawa period.

Embassy of the Netherlands - the only country that maintained contact during the 'closed country' period

The Netherlands was the only Western nation to maintain diplomatic relations from 400 years before Japan opened up it's borders, and it established one of the first 4 legations in Nishijyoji, Shiba in 1859. It moved to Shiba Park in 1883, but was destroyed by a fire in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. It was rebuilt in 1928 and remains the same even now.

It is said that the distinctive bowed arc design is a motif of Nagasaki's Dejima, which was a trading place during the Sakoku (closed country) period. The ambassador's residence is an example of some of the oldest Western architecture in Tokyo, and and an important legacy piece of James Gardiner, an American architect who was the first American architect in Japan.

Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany - relocating with history

The first consul of Prussia, which is the present northern part of Germany, was made in Yokohama's foreigner settlement in 1862. It was relocated four years later to Shuntō-in temple in Motoazabu (opposite Sendaizaka and the Korean Embassy) in 1866. The current Shuntō-in Temple moved to Minami Azabu. It relocated to Nagatacho in 1872, but was destroyed in the air raids of World War II.

After the war, the current premises was offered by the Japanese government, and it moved to Minami-Azabu. The ambassador's residence was built in 1957 and remains as it was then.

Embassy of Sweden - Artistic building that captures sunlight

After the Consulate was established in Kobe in 1901, the Swedish embassy relocated to Minato-ku in 1959. The current building was designed by Michael Granito and Kato Yoshito in 1991. The modern building looks like a piece of contemporary art. It was built with inspiration from the movement of the sun, and was designed to prevent shadows. A spiral staircase from the second to the ninth floor makes it easy for the whole building to take in the sunlight. Events and seminars that anyone can participate in are occasionally held.

Afghanistan · Islamic Embassy - Feel the crossroads of culture of Afghanistan

The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan looks like an exotic palace standing in a quiet corner of Azabudai. Diplomatic relations between Japan and Afghanistan were formed in 1930, and after the opening of the legation in Itakura in 1933, it moved to its present location in 2008.

Currently it is difficult to travel to Afghanistan, but it is a country with a beautiful mix of cultures from the various countries that surround it such as Pakistan, China, and Iran. Even from the exterior, it is a beautiful embassy where you can feel the atmosphere of a faraway country.

Embassy Time Travel Tour Map


Minato-ku Time Travel Tour

Many new spots that are ahead of the times are created in Minato-ku - a place where businesses and trends start. This is not a recent thing - Minato-ku has been home to trendy spots throughout history, and many of these places still exist. Minato-ku Time Travel Tour takes a look around those historical trendy spots in Minato-ku based on four different themes. Pick your favorite theme and take a journey back in time!