Launch of English Project to Make Tokyo the Choice of the World

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and local groups in the Daimaru-Yu district (Otemachi-Marunouchi-Yurakucho) have teamed up to make a district where people can interact in English.
Skyscrapers in the Daimaru-Yu area stand tall behind the forest of the Imperial Palace. Photo: Yukinori Hasumi/Getty images

A Business Area Built During the Meiji Period

Although the Daimaru-Yu district (Otemachi-Marunouchi-Yurakucho), located near Tokyo Station, has long flourished as the central district of Tokyo, the Marunouchi area did not become the business area it is today until the Meiji period (1868-1912).

During the Edo period (1603-1868), the area was lined with the residences of feudal lords, but it was completely transformed after the Meiji Restoration. Once used for military purposes, after the Imperial Army relocated, the strict building standards due to its proximity to the Imperial Palace meant that the area was left unutilized and became a wasteland. Iwasaki Yanosuke of Mitsubishi Corporation purchased this area and began developing it into a "Western-style business district similar to London." By the end of the Meiji period, 14 buildings were constructed and the area was referred to as "Iccho London" (London District).

Building No. 12 (left, now the Shin-Tokyo Building) and Building No. 13 (right, now the Fuji Building) were among the 14 buildings constructed in the late Meiji period. The area was referred to as "Iccho London." Photo: Courtesy of Mitsubishi Estate

In the Taisho period (1912-1926), Tokyo Station was opened and transportation infrastructure was expanded, resulting in a rapid increase in demand for office space, and in 1923, the former Marunouchi Building (colloquially known as "Maru-Biru") was opened. It was also referred to as "Iccho New York" (New York District) as it was an American-style building with an emphasis on practicality, with express elevators and a shopping mall attached to the office building. The area was severely damaged during World War II, and the remaining buildings were confiscated by the occupying forces immediately after the war, but it has since developed into one of the world's leading business districts.

Toward an Inbound Center for Foreign Tourists  

Flourishing as a business district, Daimaru-Yu was once known as an office area where people gathered only on weekdays. Over the past 20 years, however, centering on the Marunouchi Building, which was rebuilt in 2002, and Marunouchi Naka-dori Street, it has been transformed into an area where people gather even on holidays. It has become a place where inbound tourists can enjoy shopping and sightseeing.

Marunouchi Naka-dori Street is now crowded with people even on holidays. Photo: Courtesy of Mitsubishi Estate

In April 2023, Bulgari Hotel Tokyo will open on the Yaesu side of this area, which is lined with world-class hotels such as the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi, the Peninsula Tokyo, and Aman Tokyo, as well as traditional Japanese hotels such as the Tokyo Station Hotel, Palace Hotel Tokyo, and the Imperial Hotel. The number of tourists from abroad is expected to continue to increase in the near future.

Old and new buildings line the street. Many foreign tourists stay in the business district, which also has a number of high-end luxury hotels. Photo: K2_keyleter/Getty images

Creating a More Attractive, Multilingual Tokyo

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (the TMG), which aims to improve English language proficiency in the city in order to increase international competitiveness, has focused its attention on the Daimaru-Yu district and launched "T.E.A.M. Daimaru-Yu (Tokyo English Adventure Movement)" in collaboration with local companies and organizations. The aim is to use English as a tool to enhance the attractiveness of the city.

In February 2023, a kick-off event was held with appearances by Koike Yuriko, the Governor of Tokyo, and Yoshida Junichi, CEO of Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd. Governor Koike expressed her enthusiasm for the launch of T.E.A.M. Daimaru-Yu, saying, "Tokyo needs to become a more English-friendly city in order to increase its attractiveness so that it can become the city of choice in the increasingly competitive global urban environment."

"Speaking English is like having a passport," added Governor Koike (left). Yoshida Junichi, CEO of Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd (right) spoke about Marunouchi's "interactive urban development."

At the kick-off event, interactive "Let's Talk in English" booths, in which participants conversed with native speakers over sushi (see photo) or sports, were crowded with visitors.

"The Daimaru-Yu district, where Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace are located, is also popular among overseas visitors as one of Japan's leading urban tourism destinations. We are trying to create a town that is open to the world, accepting people of all ages and genders, with an awareness of diversity and inclusion," said Yoshida, as he promoted the initiatives being taken in the Daimaru-Yu district.

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is close to being over and real-life exchanges with overseas countries are expected to increase, the TMG and the Daimaru-Yu district will continue to collaborate to make Tokyo a city that can communicate with and is highly regarded by the rest of the world.

Writing by Tauchi Shoko
Translation by Amitt