What does Ebisu mean?



Ebisu is a trendy area in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.

If you love beer like I do, then even if you’ve never been to Japan, you’ve probably heard of this excellent brew.

Japan's most famous deity, Ebisu!
Japan’s most famous deity, Ebisu!

Ebisu is the name of an indigenous Japanese deity. He’s easy to recognize because he’s usually depicted as a fat dude sitting down with a fish on his fishing pole and a big dopey smile across his face. He’s a symbol of prosperity and good luck. He’s also one of the 七福神 shichi fukujin (7 gods of good luck), so if you feel like taking a walk around the new year’s holiday, you can visit one of many local pilgrimages dedicated to these 7 popular gods.

The old Yebisu Train Station with the Brewery in the background.
Ye goode old Yebisu Train Station with the Brewery in the background.

Why is this area called Ebisu?

Well, the Japan Beer Company introduced its Yebisu beer brand in 1887. In 1889, they built an Yebisu factory in the area. In 1901, a train line and bus line developed to help with distribution and in bringing workers to and from the factory. The name of the station was 恵比寿停車場 Ebisu Teishajō (Yebisu Depot). Because of the public transportation (and one would assume the availability of massive amounts of beer), the area quickly urbanized. The station and area around the beer factory was called Ebisu by the local people and in 1928 the area was officially named Ebisu.

If you’re interested in visiting the beer factory, I’m sad to say you can’t!!!

Ebisu Garden Place today
Ebisu Garden Place today

The reason you can’t visit is that the Yebisu Brewery was moved to Chiba in 1988 and the property was reclaimed by developers who built the current shopping area, Ebisu Garden Place. Japan Beer Company is now Sapporo Brewery, which still has their headquarters in Ebisu Garden Place. There is also a Museum of Yebisu Beer, which I’ve never been too. But one of these days, I need to get my ass in there.

Let's drink Yebisu in Ebisu!
A buttload of Yebisu!

You might be asking yourself, “what’s up with the spelling?” Is it Ebisu or Yebisu?

If you’re interested, you should read part 2!

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