The inspiration people seek: Kotto-dori (literally “antiques street”) used to be a place where connoisseurs and admirers of antiques and old traditional art pieces from Japan and the Orient would gather, sometimes coming across a rare find or mistakenly purchasing a fake. It was a road for enthusiasts and where a discerning eye would be thoroughly tested. But now, it’s becoming a place where people simply view genuine art pieces in museums instead, and for these art and antique fans, a large part of the road’s appeal has been lost.
People who enjoy having the latest fashion brands quickly associate Aoyama and Omote-sando with Route 246, but Kotto-dori is another area in the vicinity of R246 that many visit in search of brand-name merchandise. Put simply, what makes Kotto-dori different is its “practicality”; it’s known for the many recycle shops along it that carry top-brand items. To most people, Kotto-dori is an area that people buy and sell items at prices that seem incomprehensible unless you have a special interest in them as rarities or exclusive items. But, in that sense, that may be what it’s main purpose has become and makes the name Kotto-dori all the more fitting in the contemporary context.
As an area, it’s not widely known among the general populace; if you were to say “...on Kotto-dori,” few people would be able to recall the street’s scenery or its location on a map.
In short: Kotto-dori is the name of the street that connects the Minami Aoyama 5-chome intersection on Route 246 with the Takagicho intersection on Roppongi-dori. It’s also sometimes called “Aoyama Kotto-dori.” At some point, the street naturally took on the name because of the many kotto-ya (antique stores) along it. It divides the neighborhoods of Aoyama 5-chome and 6-chome, and near the Takagicho intersection, you can find the Nezu Museum known for its collection of traditional Japanese and Oriental artworks, and the Eiheiji Betsuin Chokokuji Temple (Tokyo branch temple of the zen Eiheiji Temple in Fukui Prefecture) originally established in the Edo Period.
Kotto-dori is home to many boutique shops, showrooms, brand-name recycle shops, restaurants and more.
Some background: It’s said that antique shops (kotto-ya) began opening here after World War II, but when the street began to be known as Kotto-dori is undetermined. There are other areas of Tokyo where antique shops are concentrated and have a longer history than here, but “Kotto-dori” refers only to this street. One theory for the naming suggests the influence of antique art appraisers appearing on popular TV shows in the 1980s. Read more With the incredible explosion of popularity of the Aoyama and Omote-sando areas, the rent for tenants on or near Kotto-dori also shot up. During Japan’s economic bubble era, people raked in profits (nurete ni awa in Japanese) from selling antiques here at extravagant prices. But, ironically, since most of the shops were run by people with discerning eyes, as soon as Kotto-dori became more widely known, the number of antique shops began to decrease.