Aoyama Icchōme (Green Mountain, first block)
This area derives its name from the 青山氏 Aoyama-shi Aoyama clan who had their lower residence here. The family originated in Tokugawa Ieyasu’s native 三河国 Mikawa no Kuni Mikawa Province. The western portion of their estate was converted into Aoyama Cemetery. The Aoyama clan’s family temple 梅窓院 Baisō-in Baisō Temple is also located in the area. I haven’t been myself, but I suspect there be daimyō graves in them hills, yarrr. But that’s a story for another day.
Aoyama Cemetery’s most famous graves are those of ハチ公 Hachi-kō the stupid dog at Shibuya Station who didn’t know how to read between the lines and 乃木希典 Nogi Maresuke the suicidal general from Satsuma whom the Meiji Emperor forbade to kill himself until he died; but once the emperor died, he murdered his wife, killed himself, and became a hero of the Japanese Empire. By the way, the Nogi house is preserved as a museum in the area[i] and you can visit it and on the anniversary of the murder-suicide, the curators display the bloodied kimonos they wore on that fateful day. Personally, I’m more interested in seeing Hachi-kō’s grave[ii].
Aoyama is interesting, though. While most of the area is skyscrapers and fashionable apartments, you can find some huge residential plots of land with 2-3 story houses and yards if you dig deep. In the business of J-Pop, Aoyama has a huge reputation. Many recording studios are located in the vicinity – many of which have close connection to the Avex Group[iii] which had its headquarters here until 2014.
One of my favorite rāmen shops is located here, 五行 Gogyō. It’s located near Nogizaka Station and it serves a kind of soy sauce rāmen called 焦がし醤油拉麺 kogashi shōyu rāmen torched soy sauce rāmen. It’s normal soy sauce rāmen but they light it on fire which gives a deeper and more intense taste to the soup. It also turns it black. This shop is always in my top 3 favorite rāmen shops in Tōkyō.
There is another rāmen shop in the area. かおたんKaotan. This shop is located across the street from Gogyō. The drawback is that it’s decrepit to the point that when I brought Mrs. JapanThis! here for the first time, she was hesitant to even enter the shop. Once we got inside, she was pleased to see that like Gogyō it was non-smoking – despite its Shōwa Style image. The rāmen here is considered Chinese soy sauce style. This shop is in my top 10 of Tōkyō rāmen shops not only because of taste, but because of vibe. I’m surprised this shop still exists in a temporary looking shop on such hot real-estate.
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[i] It’s called 乃木坂 Nogizakazaka Nogi Hill because he was such a hero to the imperial government.
[ii] I like dogs.
[iii] Arguably, Japan’s most successful home-grown major pop label.